The National Democratic Party (NDP), the political arm for 30 years of ousted president Mubarak, is in a fight for its life. The NDP's diehard members, led by Secretary General Mohamed Ragab, face a war on two fronts aimed to kill the party.
Battle line one:
The first includes widespread calls aimed at dissolving the NDP altogether and eliminating it from political life. Members of the coalition that championed Egypt's 25 January revolution believe that the NDP could still be used as a tool by ousted President Hosni Mubarak to launch a counter-revolution and recover power. Major political parties also joined the voice of the youth revolution's coalition, insisting that the NDP could become a thorn in the side of Egypt's transition towards a full-fledged democracy.
Some days ago, the mouthpiece of the liberal-oriented Wafd party alleged that Ragab is still receiving orders from Mubarak to gather the party's ranks and prepare for a counter-revolution. In response, Ragab strongly denied that he has any contact with Mubarak and that will file a lawsuit against the Wafd paper.
Furthermore, Ragab told Ahram Online that the NDP will hold its next annual conference in the second half of April to elect a new leader to replace Mubarak and a new secretariat general. “Those who believe that Mubarak will be back to lead the party again are crazy,” said Ragab, indicating that “the fact is that the NDP has many members who still believe in its centrist ideology, which is based on moderation and modernism.”
Ragab, however, admitted that hundreds of NDP's members resigned from the party's ranks immediately after the breakout of the 25 January revolution “and even before Mubarak resigned from office on 11 February.”
“As for the members who said they are ready to stay with the party,” said Ragab, “they stipulated that the party must relieve itself of the senior officials who face corruption charges.”
As a result, Ragab indicated, the NDP decided to fire 21 businessmen and former senior officials from its leading ranks. “These face a flurry of corruption charges ranging from profiteering and theft of state land,” said Ragab, also indicating that “most of the party's former senior leaders, such as Mubarak's younger son, Gamal, and old guard heavyweights, Zakaria Azmi, Moufid Shehab, Alieddin Hilal and Ahmed Ezz resigned from the party altogether.”
Many believe that in spite of all the setbacks that have hit the NDP since Mubarak's resignation on 11 February the party still has “some centres of power in various governorates.” These centres of powers are represented by old NDP members who exercise a great deal of influence in their own districts and enjoy strong tribal and socio-economic connections. These members engineered the campaigns in their districts in favour of voting “Yes” for constitutional amendments.
Ragab told Ahram Online that “the NDP gave orders to its leading members in provincial governorates to mobilise citizens in favour of voting 'Yes' and I think their campaigns in this respect was a very good success and shows that the party can depend on the popularity of these NDP members in any upcoming parliamentary elections to win seats in the parliament and upper house.”
Notably, while voting on the referendum day on 19 March, Mohamed El-Baradei, the ex-chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accused some NDP members of inciting citizens to attack him and obstructing him from voting in south Cairo's district of Mokkatam.
Many of the NDP members believe that their success in previous parliamentary elections depended largely on their popularity, wealth and tribal and familial relations, not necessarily on their membership in the NDP. In fact, Ragab says “These members were by no means negatively affected by the resignation of Mubarak and his henchmen from the party.”
Many believe that some former leading NDP members, like businessman, Hossam Badrawi, who replaced the NDP’s secretary general Safwat El-Sherif, is currently contemplating the formation of a new party, mainly drawing on the younger members of the NDP.
Badrawi said on a television talk show programme that “the centrist ideology of the NDP itself is in support of the 25 January revolution and that all forces, including old members of the NDP, have the right to establish their own parties.”
It is rumoured that Badrawi's party will be called the “New Freedom Party.”
Ragab told Ahram Online that he expects that in its conference next April many NDP members will ask to change their name to the “Liberal Democratic Party.”
Battle line two:
On another front, the NDP faces a war of widespread calls to strip it of its main offices in all of Egypt's 29 governorates. Several lawyers have filed lawsuits, asking that NDP offices in provincial governorates be confiscated.
One of the lawsuits is spearheaded by independent journalist, Mostafa Bakri. He submitted a request to the Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Yehia El-Gamal to dissolve the NDP and strip it of its offices and assets in banks, but when El-Gamal rejected the idea, Bakri decided to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC).
According to Bakri the SAC will begin its hearings 26 March. The basis of the lawsuit is that the NDP's corrupt practices violated articles 4 and 5 of the 1977 political parties law, which stresses that national unity, social peace and democratisation should be the main principles governing the performance of all political parties. “The NDP violated all of these principles and it spread corruption, despotism, sectarian strife and these reasons are quite enough to be disbanded and its assets confiscated.”
Nabil Louka Bibawi, a Coptic member of the NDP, who now acts as its spokesman, indicated that a committee headed by Rabih Ratib Basta, a former NDP Coptic member of the Upper House, reviews the legal status of NDP's offices and headquarters in all governorates. “Some of these offices are rented while others are owned by the party,” said Bibawi, indicating that “the NDP will get rid of the rented offices to relieve itself of any financial obligations while the others will remain in the party's possession.”
Bibawi indicated that 55 lawyers were mobilised to defend the party against lawsuits and keep its offices in its possession. Bibawi also indicated that the committee is also reviewing the party's budget and assets and “the all of the NDP's financial and administrative affairs will be announced during next month's conference.”