Egyptian Naguib Sawiris. Image Credit: Twitter

Cairo: Rifts have recently appeared in the Free Egyptians, one of Egypt’s biggest liberal political parties, after dozens of its members voted for scrapping the party’s board of trustees led by its co-founder and business tycoon Najeeb Sawiris.

The contested move was adopted earlier this week at the party’s congress attended by its chief Essam Khalili, known for his pro-government stands.

The Free Egyptians, founded in the wake of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, is the party with the biggest representation in parliament, with 64 seats.

Around 600 out of the 640 members of the party, who attended the conference in the Cairo quarter of Heliopolis, voted for cancelling the board of trustees.

“This board of trustees has recently appeared as though it were an entity parallel to the party or a council of guardianship,” said Nasr Al Qafas, the party’s spokesman, who backed the move.

He explained that the step was in reaction to Sawiris’ opposition to the party’s backing of the state authorities on national issues.

“He wants a party that is in the opposition all the time,” Al Qafas added in media remarks. “Sawiris and the board of trustees are now ordinary members, who have no powers inside the party.”

The board of trustees condemned its disbanding as a “coup”.

“The board of trustees announces its categorical rejection of this illegal coup and denounces the allegation made by those who staged it that they work in the interest of the country. They have to realise that Egypt’s basic project at this stage is to complete democratic transition,” the council said in an online statement.

It vowed to take the dispute to the court as well as to an independent committee in charge of legalising political parties in Egypt.

In recent months, Sawiris has been openly critical of the government’s policies.

The 62-year-old mogul questioned the timing and aims of what he called “incitement of a fabricated battle” within the party.

“Now we have to resort to the courts, unless the judiciary also has been nationalised,” Sawiris added sarcastically on his Twitter account.

Government critics have claimed that security agencies stood behind triggering fault-lines inside the Free Egyptians party, allegedly to weaken it. There was no comment from the government.

President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi officially has no political party, but his backers lead the parliament elected in late 2015.