The last few years of the Mubarak era were dogged by an undemocratic phenomenon.
Numerous members of Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), whose names were not on the party's official candidate list, would stand as independents in parliamentary polls.
These eventually became known as “NDP independents.” After winning seats in parliament, the ruling party would welcome them back into the fold again, effectively swelling its ranks in the national assembly.
The practice stirred controversy in political circles, with analysts questioning the ethics of a candidate who changed his or her political affiliation after winning a seat in parliament.
Now it appears that the phenomenon of NDP-independents is back, despite the post-revolution demise of the party in April.
A large number of former NDP members hope to exploit the fact that one third of the seats in parliament will be contested using an individual candidacy system to stand as independents.
According to official statistics by the Supreme Electoral Commission, some 4,000 would-be candidates had registered for upcoming parliamentary polls as of 12 October. Most of them registered to contest the one third of parliamentary seats reserved for independent candidates.
But to the dismay of many, a large number of these are former members of Mubarak's now-defunct NDP. Semi-official statistics suggest that as many as 60 NDP-independents have so far registered their candidacies for upcoming elections. Some are former NDP cabinet ministers, chairmen of parliamentary committees, or business tycoons.
At the top of the list are prominent figures, such as business tycoon Tarek Talaat Mostafa, former NDP chairman of parliament’s housing committee and brother of Hisham Talaat Mostafa, the former NDP-affiliated construction magnate sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for murder.
The list also includes Mostafa El-Said, a former economy minister and NDP-affiliated chairman of parliament’s economic affairs committee; and Abdel-Reheim El-Ghoul, former NDP-affiliated chairman of parliament’s agriculture committee.
In addition to the estimated 60 NDP-independents who have registered their candidacies thus far, several NDP-offshoot parties also intend to feature ex-NDP members on their electoral lists. These will compete for the two thirds of parliamentary seats set aside for party-affiliated candidates.
The list of these NDP-offshoots includes the Hurreya (‘Freedom’) Party, founded by a business family whose godfather – Mohamed Mahmoud Ali Hassan – was a member of the old NDP elite. He was also an NDP parliamentary speaker in the late 1990s.
His two sons, Motaz and Mamdouh, established the Hurreya Party as an NDP bastion in Upper Egypt. The party has been joined by a number of former NDP MPs, many of whom enjoy strong tribal and familial connections.
At least 80 former NDP MPs in Upper Egypt now have a place on Hurreya's candidate list. The party’s list also includes as many as 12 former NDP parliamentarians from the Cairo Govenorate. The Hurreya Party has also attracted a large number of former NDP deputies from the Nile Delta, several of whom are likely to be included on the party's electoral list.
According to analysts, the main reason why NDP-independents were among the first to tender candidacy applications for upcoming polls was the fact that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has so far failed to ban former NDP figures from participation in political life.
NDP remnants have also caused trouble in other political parties. The liberal Wafd Party, for example, suffered a significant setback after several of its members resigned in protest against the presence of a number of ex-NDP MPs on the party’s candidate lists, especially in Upper Egypt.
Mohamed El-Omda, a Wafd member in Aswan, said he had decided to resign from the party after finding former NDP MPs on its candidate lists.
“The party believes these figures enjoy wide popularity in their districts, irrespective of the fact that they played a central role in corrupting political life over the last 30 years,” El-Omda said.