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Wafd

Wafd (wŏft) [key], in modern Egyptian history, a political party. It arose out of the delegation [Arabic wafd = delegation] headed by Zaghlul Pasha that was to have visited Great Britain in 1918 to urge Egypt's independence. Zaghlul formed the party in 1919. In addition to espousing independence, the Wafdists called for extensive social and economic reforms.

In the first parliament elected (1924) under the constitution of 1923, the Wafd won a large majority. King Fuad I, who bitterly opposed the party, dissolved parliament and would not call a new election until 1926. Again the Wafd won, and in 1928 its new leader, Nahas Pasha, became prime minister. That year the government introduced a measure forbidding the king to rule without parliament. Fuad, asserting that this would give the Wafd absolute control of the country, refused his assent and suspended the constitution. Nevertheless, in 1930 the Wafd was again victorious. Fuad soon dismissed the new cabinet and appointed a conservative prime minister, who made the party illegal.

When the constitution of 1923 was restored in 1935, the Wafd returned to power. They formed the cabinet in 1936–37. Relations with the new king, Farouk, were scarcely more cordial than those with his father. In World War II the party, which was anti-Axis, was installed in office from 1942 to 1944 at the insistence of Great Britain, which feared pro-Axis elements. In the elections of 1950 the Wafd triumphed again, and Nahas Pasha returned as prime minister. The party lost much of its popularity because of charges of corruption and the support it had given the British during the war.

On Jan. 26, 1952, King Farouk took advantage of riots in Cairo to dismiss the Wafd from power. When the Egyptian revolution took place in July, 1952, Wafd politicians were discredited, and the party was forced to disband. The New Wafd party, established in 1978, had parliamentary representation in the 1980s but boycotted several elections in the 1990s. The rise of Islamists had by the 2005 parliamentary elections resulted in the Muslim Brotherhood becoming the main opposition group, and in Jan., 2006, reformers won control of the New Wafd. Tensions between the old guard and reformers led to a gun battle at party headquarters in Apr., 2006. In the 2011–12 parliamentary elections, the party placed third (and first among the secular parties) in the first post-Mubarak balloting.

See Z. M. Quraishi, Liberal Nationalism in Egypt (1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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