8 May 2011
There have been contradictory reactions to the recent decision by the Supreme Administrative Court to dissolve the erstwhile ruling National Democratic Party and sequestrate its assets.
Although a number of observers and pundits view it as a triumph for the 25 January Revolution, others express discontent over the move on the grounds that it suggests an implicit defamation of all the NDP members, including those who chose to stay well clear of the party’s malpractices.
The NDP was formed in 1978 by President Anwar Sadat, who was succeeded as party chairman following his assassination in 1981 by Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president from 1981 till he stepped down due to public pressure on 11 February 2011. For the past 33 years, the NDP played such a hegemonic role over Egyptian politics that it was often considered a de facto single party inside an officially multi-party system. Over the past decade there was conflict within the NDP between the so-called ‘old’ and ‘new’ guard. The Policies Committee (PC) was established to enhance the status of the latter in Egyptian politics. Led by Gamal Mubarak, the toppled president’s younger son, and including several new guard figures, the PC was commonly viewed as a tool to groom the president’s son to succeed his father.
Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed, political science professor at Cairo University and the American University in Cairo, welcomes the court order.
“The NDP spoilt the country’s political life over the decades, and it bears responsibility for the rigging of the 2005 and 2010 legislative elections,” Dr Sayed says. “Even worse was the party’s leadership’s blessing of the inheritance scenario, through which it was planned that Gamal Mubarak should succeed his father. It goes without saying that such a scenario represented a grave violation of the basics of our Constitution and republican system. It has to be taken into account, however, that some NDP members were keen to distance themselves from the party’s corrupt practices. These people should be allowed access to a continuing political contribution.”
Dr Sayed says the NDP was in fact not a real party. Rather, it was “a gathering of government loyalists.”
“If it were not for governmental backing, the NDP would have no presence. Unlike other parties and groups, including communists and the Muslim Brotherhood, the NDP had no principles. As for the plans announced by Talaat Sadat [nephew of the late president] to found a new party to replace the NDP, I doubt that it would be welcomed by the pubic. I think it will have little chance of assuming power.”
Farida al-Naqqash, deputy chairman of the left-wing Tagammu Party, says that, from a legal perspective, commenting on court rulings is not allowed. Yet she is afraid, she says, that the court ruling might be politically motivated.
“The 25 January Revolution called for equality and justice,” she says. “The latest court ruling to disband the NDP signifies total exclusion of the party’s members. I do not agree with this move, given the fact that the party harboured a reformist group whose members should be offered the opportunity to form a new party.
“If we look at the issue through a human rights prism, no one has the right to exclude any group from political life. Differences should be respected and everybody is entitled to contribute in politics. Ultimately, the public have the final say through the polls.”
Essam Shiha, a lawyer and member of the liberal Wafd Party’s higher council, supports the court ruling since it sequestrates the NDP’s assets, which represent State property. “The NDP has plenty of offices nationwide, and these should be given back to the State,” he says. “In democracies, parties are never dissolved. Rather, they are left to die alone. In my view, the NDP breathed its last before the court ruling was issued. As for Talaat Sadat’s announcement, it has much to do with the new law amendments governing the foundation of political parties and stipulating a minimum of 5,000 members to licence a new party. I believe that collecting this number of members is by no means an easy task.”