Skip to main content
Select Source:

Wafd

WAFD

Major Egyptian nationalist party organized in 1919.

The Wafd Party took its name from the delegation (in Arabic, wafd ) composed of Saʿd Zaghlul and other notables who called for the complete independence (istiqlal tamm) of Egypt from the British immediately after World War I. When Britain refused to negotiate with the Wafd and exiled its leaders, Egypt launched a full-scale rebellion in 1919. A sophisticated network of organizers in key cities and villages allowed the Wafd to dominate the political scene.

The Wafd did not become a formal political party until 1924, six years after its inception. The party was organized along hierarchical lines, with an executive council. Although the party enjoyed the support of a cross section of the Egyptian populace, its leaders were predominantly urban, upper- and middle-class, modern, and secular. The highly charismatic Zaghlul served as its president until his death in 1927. The Wafdist leadership also included both Muslims and Copts, notably Makram Ubayd. Women, particularly Zaghlul's wife, Safiyya, and Huda al-Shaʿrawi, became leaders in the struggle for women's voting rights, acting on the principle that the struggle against imperialism had to be accompanied by a similar struggle for gender equality. Between the two world wars, the Wafd engaged in a three-way struggle with the British and the Egyptian monarchy. Seeking to undercut Egypt's demands for independence, Britain unilaterally declared Egypt independent in 1922 and promulgated a constitutional monarchy in 1923. As the only party to enjoy widespread popular support for its anti-British stand, the Wafd won the 1924 elections and all subsequent elections that were not manipulated or rigged by King Ahmad Fuʾad or his son Farouk.

Following Zaghlul's death, Mustafa al-Nahhas became president of the party and continued its struggle against the British. In 1936 he signed the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, which formalized Egyptian and British relations but permitted both the continuation of a British military presence along the Suez Canal zone and British control over the Sudan.

This failure to secure complete independence, coupled with allegations of nepotism and corruption within the party, undermined some of its popular support. In the 1930s many Egyptian youths joined various fascist and radical groups, and the Wafd countered by creating the Blue Shirts, a paramilitary youth organization. In 1941, fearing a pro-Nazi Egyptian government, Britain's ambassador Miles Lampson (later Lord Killearn) forced King Farouk to accept Nahhas as prime minister. Nahhas's willingness to work with the British throughout World War II further undercut the Wafd's credibility as a nationalist and anti-imperialist party.

Following the 1952 military coup that deposed Farouk, the Wafd was formally disbanded (1953); some of its leaders were then tried for corruption and crimes against the state. In 1976, when Anwar al-Sadat announced the return to a multiparty system, the Wafd was revived under the leadership of Fuʾad Siraj al-Din. The New Wafd called for a parliamentary, multiparty system and the dismantling of socialist measures that had been enacted under Egypt's former president, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In a short time, the Wafd gathered a notable degree of support, particularly among Copts and in the richer urban areas. The Wafd voted to disband in reaction to Sadat's political crackdown in late 1978, but it was revived after Sadat's assassination by Islamists in 1981. In the 1984 elections the New Wafd cooperated with the Muslim Brotherhood and won 58 seats in parliament. By 1990 the New Wafd opposed the government and the continuation of the state of emergency, and it boycotted the 1993 elections. Its newspaper, al-Wafd, remained one of the few opposition publications. Following Siraj al-Din's death in 2000, Nʿuman Jumaʿa, a university professor, was elected the new leader in a notably open and transparent election. Representing the new generation, Jumaʿa pushed for political and economic changes; but without grassroots support, the Wafd remained a minority party in parliament.

see also nahhas, mustafa al-; new wafd; shaʿrawi, huda al-; zaghlul, saʿd.


Bibliography

Deeb, Marius. Party Politics in Egypt: The Wafd and Its Rivals, 19191939. London: Ithaca Press, 1979.

Terry, Janice J. The Wafd, 19191952: Cornerstone of Egyptian Power. London: Third World Centre for Research and Publishing, 1982.

janice j. terry

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Wafd." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Wafd." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wafd

"Wafd." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wafd

Wafd

Wafd (wŏft), 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).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Wafd." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Wafd." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wafd

"Wafd." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wafd