On 20 January, thousands of Tunisian protesters gathered in front of the tall building of the ruling party – the Democratic Constitutional Rally (DCR) – chanting slogans calling for the dissolution of its ranks and elimination from political life in Tunisia. Just eight days later on 28 January, thousands of protesters in Cairo – the Arab world's most populous city – gathered in front of the tall and old headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Unlike the Tunisians, the Egyptian protesters were more nervous, not only chanting anti-NDP slogans but also torching the edifice.
This was not the only earthquake to shake the ground under the NDP's feet. On 5 February, the party's six-member executive office decided to step down. This group is notable for including Gamal Mubarak, the 44-year-old son of President Hosni Mubarak and chairman of the party's influential Policies Committee, and Safwat El-Sherif, the NDP's secretary-general for nine years. The remaining four includes Moufid Shehab, the NDP's assistant secretary-general for parliamentary affairs; Zakaria Azmi, assistant secretary-general for membership affairs; Alieddin Hilal, secretary for media affairs; and Ahmed Ezz, secretary for organizational affairs.
President Mubarak, in his capacity as the NDP's chairman since 1981, appointed Hossam Badrawi as the party's new secretary general and head of its policies committee. The other newly-appointed members of the executive office include Mohamed Ragab, NDP's long-time spokesman in the Upper House; Maged El-Sherbini, an environmental expert and a member of Parliament; Mohamed Abdellah, a member of the Upper House and former president of Alexnadria University; Mohamed Heiba, NDP's secretary for youth affairs; and Mohamed Kamal, NDP's secretary for training and indoctrination.
The appointment of Badrawi, an elected member of parliament during 2000-2005, was welcomed in political and youth circles. Although a businessman (he owns the Nile Badrawi hospital), Badrawi has been hailed as a reformist, especially in the field of education. Badrawi has in the past called for an end to the old policy of free education and privatizing public hospitals. His reformist ideas brought him into conflict with NDP's old guard – especially the late Kamal El-Shazli, the party’s former secretary for organizational affairs – and resulted in him losing his seat in the 2005 parliamentary elections. He was, however, appointed a member of the Upper House and NDP's education committee.
The resignation of Gamal Mubarak means, according to Al-Ahram political analyst Diaa Rashwan, an end to his 11-year-old political life. Gamal Mubarak joined the NDP's secretariat-general in February 2000, alongside several businessmen and market-economy advocates such as Ahmed Ezz, Ibrahim Kamel, Mahmoud Mohieddin and Youssef Boutros Ghali. In a major shake-up of the NDP introduced under the title "a new style of thinking", Gamal Mubarak was appointed chairman of the new "Policies Secretariat” committee. The new post endowed him with enough power to render him the party’s second in command and a strong candidate to inherit the presidency from his father.
Gamal Mubarak's close relationship with businessmen, especially Ahmed Ezz, laid him open to vociferous attacks and a hostile press campaign from opposition and independent newspapers. Rashwan believes that Gamal Mubarak's close relationship with Ezz was his biggest mistake. "It is the straw which broke the camel's back and caused his downfall," Rashwan said.
The younger Mubarak's resignation from his influential party posts brought the inheritance scenario to an end. By resigning, he is no longer a member of the NDP's 46-member Higher Policies Committee (HPC) from which the party's presidential candidate must be selected.
While Gamal Mubarak was widely considered the NDP's leader of the new generation, Safwat El-Sherif represented the old guard. El-Sherif was a staunch advocate for nominating President Mubarak for a sixth term in power. He also exercised a strong influence in political and media life, making use of his other positions as chairman of the Upper House, the Higher Press council and the Political Parties Committee. Ahead of his appointment as chairman of the Upper House in 2004, El-Sherif had been minister of information since 1981.
El-Sherif graduated from the military academy in 1951 and later joined Egypt's intelligence agency until 1967. He reappeared in the late seventies when he was made chairman of the State Information Service and, in 1979, he was appointed chairman of the Television and Radio Union.
When the move of street protests swept Cairo on 25 January, the NDP's major leaders remained arrogant, insisting that the number of protesters in Tahrir Square did not exceed a few thousand and by no means posed a threat to the NDP's solid position.
Just one day before the Friday of Anger on 28 January, El-Sherif laid the blame on the previous prime minister, Ahmed Nazif. When asked about the reaction of the party's leaders and if any of them had fled the country, El-Sherif asserted that "the party's leaders stand firm and proud of themselves unmoved by any protests."
But when the storm of the protests ravaged the country that Friday, El-Sherif disappeared from view only to reappear when he was forced to resign.
Mohamed Ragab, the NDP's spokesman in the Upper House and the newly-appointed secretary for organizational affairs, said the resignation of Gamal Mubarak, Safwat El-Sherif and other members of NDP's executive office has been on the table since 28 January. "The resignation was only made after the complete formation of a new government," said Ragab, adding that "it was natural as a democratic move that the NDP's leadership bear its responsibility in this critical moment and open the door for readjustment of the party's role in political life in the coming period."