Hossam Badrawi is a former member of the defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) and served as the former ruling party’s secretary-general during President Hosni Mubarak’s last days in office. He is also founder of the Union Party, widely seen as one of several NDP offshoots that emerged following the dissolution of the party in April 2011.
Badrawi was born in Cairo in 1953 to a well-established family traditionally affiliated with Egypt’s liberal Al-Wafd Party. He graduated from Cairo University’s faculty of medicine in 1974. In 1983, he earned his PhD in gynecology from Wayne State University in the United States. He currently owns the well-known Nile Badrawi Hospital in Cairo’s Maadi district.
Badrawi entered Egyptian political life in the second half of the 1990s. He joined then-president Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in 2000, alongside presidential scion Gamal Mubarak; business tycoon Ahmed Ezz (later NDP secretary for organizational affairs); Mahmoud Mohieddin (later investment minister); Youssef Boutros-Ghali (later finance minister); and Rachid Mohamed Rachid (later trade and industry minister).
In 2000, the NDP fielded Badrawi in elections for the lower house of Egypt’s parliament, the People’s Assembly, for Cairo’s downtown Qasr El-Nil district. Badrawi won a seat in the assembly that he occupied for five years, during which he headed the parliamentary committee on education and scientific research. Touted as a “reformist,” Badrawi also became a member of the notorious Policies Committee, drawn up and headed by the younger Mubarak.
Badrawi launched several education initiatives, both within the party and in parliament, aimed at improving Egypt’s educational system. He introduced an extensive reform program for both the high school and university levels, producing numerous policy papers on dozens of education-related issues.
Badrawi also chaired a joint parliamentary committee devoted to intellectual property rights legislation, in which he pushed for the implementation of laws seen as vital to Egypt’s entry into trade agreements with the European Union.
He also became a member of the state-appointed National Council for Human Rights, formed in 2004 as part of the Mubarak regime’s alleged efforts to promote “democratic reform.” Until 2007, he headed up the council’s committee on social rights. Badrawi also became a member of the board of trustees of Egypt’s high-profile library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Badrawi ran again in 2005 parliamentary polls, but lost his seat to businessman Hisham Mostafa Khalil, son of a former prime minister and NDP founder. Badrawi later accused the ruling party’s “old guard” of supporting Khalil’s parliamentary bid at the expense of his own.
Before the Revolution
After failing to win a parliamentary seat in 2005, Badrawi launched a scathing attack against old guard figures, whom he accused of doing “everything possible” to prevent him from winning a seat in the assembly. He also accused them of conspiring to thwart his ascendance within party ranks.
Some contend that old guard officials, for their part, had always viewed Badrawi as member of Gamal Mubarak’s inner circle, which they believed had been created to challenge their long-entrenched influence within the party.
Opposition forces, meanwhile, saw Badrawi largely as a tool of the younger Mubarak, used to impose the latter’s liberal agenda and advance a suspected father-to-son succession scenario. Badrawi was widely quoted as saying at the time: “If President Hosni Mubarak doesn’t stand in 2011 elections, it’s natural that the NDP select Gamal Mubarak as its [presidential] candidate.”
In September 2010, Badrawi attacked the opposition for its criticism of Gamal Mubarak’s visit to Washington on what was rumored to be “semi-official” visit aimed at obtaining U.S. approval of Gamal’s plans for a presidential bid in 2011.
When Badrawi was unseated in 2005 polls, Gamal Mubarak appointed him to the chairmanship of the NDP’s business committee. Gamal also pushed his aging father to appoint Badrawi to the Shura Council – the upper, consultative house of Egypt’s parliament – in 2007.
The Revolution and Beyond
When faced with Egypt’s popular uprising in January, longstanding president Hosni Mubarak hastily attempted to polish the image of his autocratic NDP by appointing officials seen as more amenable to the public. Badrawi found himself at the top of the list.
On 5 February, only six days before Mubarak’s departure, leading NDP members were forced to resign their positions en masse. At that point, Badrawi replaced NDP stalwart Safwat Al-Sherif as party secretary-general. Badrawi was also made head of the party’s influential Policies Committee, replacing Gamal Mubarak, who until then had been widely perceived as the party’s heir-apparent for the presidency.
In his first public statement following his appointment, Badrawi, hinting at the possibility of early presidential elections, asserted that Egyptian politics required a “new generation” and a “genuine program of radical reform.”
As the popular uprising gathered momentum following international appeals for Mubarak to step down, Badrawi called on the president to hand over executive authority to his newly appointed vice president, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, rather than simply leave office. Such a move, Badrawi argued at the time, would pave the way for free presidential elections. “Egypt isn’t in need of tragic developments that don’t allow for economic development,” he said. “We want work. We want companies to make profits and pay taxes. We want safety and stability.”
During the crucial days of 9 and 10 February, Badrawi made several visits to the presidential palace. He claims he was trying to convince Mubarak to parley with young revolutionary representatives. “This might have convinced these young people that Mubarak had already discarded the [presidential] inheritance scenario and embarked on a true democratic agenda,” Badrawi said later. “And in return, revolutionaries might have put an end to their ongoing sit-in in Tahrir Square.”
Badrawi subsequently noted that Gamal Mubarak, First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, and presidential chief-of-staff Zakaria Azmi all opposed efforts to open dialogue with the young revolutionaries.
As a result, Badrawi said on 10 February that: “I met President Mubarak [on 9 February] and told him that it was time to delegate his powers to Suleiman, and I expect he will do this tonight.” He also later said that, on 9 February, he had urged the president by phone to brief the public about his intentions. “My aim was to urge the president to entrust his vice president with staging open presidential elections under judicial supervision as soon as possible,” he was later quoted as saying.
Mubarak, however, in a speech delivered late on 10 February, defied all calls for his immediate resignation, saying he would remain in office until a September vote. The president’s day-to-day powers, meanwhile, would be delegated to Suleiman.
The gesture failed to placate irate protesters, however, who had been demanding the ouster of Mubarak and his regime since 25 January. It also failed to placate Badrawi, who decided to resign after only six days as NDP secretary-general. Badrawi later recalled that, “On 11 February, there was no hope,” noting that “calls for Mubarak’s immediate ouster had gained powerful momentum locally and internationally.” At that moment, Badrawi said, “it became clear to me that it would be better to quit the NDP before Mubarak resigned and the party collapsed into pieces.”
After Mubarak finally stepped down and conditions for establishing political parties were dramatically eased, Badrawi decided to reenter domestic politics. There were reports circulating immediately after his resignation from the NDP that he attempted to form a party by the name of “The Youth of January 25,” but such a party never came to surface. Instead,he joined several intellectuals and businessmen to form the Ittihad (“Union”) Party, and is also widely believed to have played a central role in the establishment of the Misr Al-Nahda (“Egypt Renaissance”) Party, formed by former young cadres of the now-defunct NDP. Both parties claim to stand for political and economic liberalization.
In August, Badrawi attempted to make a popular comeback with an appearance on popular television talk show Akher Kalam, during which he spoke about his role in the final days of the Mubarak regime. On live television, he asserted that he had personally asked the embattled president to step down at the height of the uprising and stressed his sympathy for the protesters and their demands.
His television appearance, however, was not well received by the public. Although many political observers continue to express fears of a concerted, counter-revolutionary effort to return NDP stalwarts to Egypt’s political scene, Badrawi says he is simply a founder of the nascent Ittihad Party, stressing that he has no intention to stand in upcoming parliamentary polls.