With Egypt’s first post-revolution parliamentary elections two weeks away, the battle lines have started to become clear. In addition to Islamists and secularists, the loyalists of former president Hosni Mubarak’s defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) are set to be a major force.
Unlike previous years when they were supported by security forces and government institutions to sweep to victory, NDP’s stalwarts were supported this time by a final court ruling which stated that party members were not barred from running as candidates in these elections.
The ruling, issued by the Supreme Administrative Court on 14 November, shocked the forces that had been mobilising over the past few weeks to prevent NDP’s diehards from joining the election race.
This followed an earlier ruling on 10 November by Mansoura city’s Administrative Court barring all members of the now defunct NDP from running for elections.
The anti-NDP forces who set this battle in motion were led by Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. The Brotherhood was fiercely battered by the NDP in the 2010 elections, stripping them of even a single seat in Parliament.
Now, following the fall of Mubarak and his party from power, the Brotherhood wants to retaliate, pressuring the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to issue legislation designed to exclude corrupt NDP members from participating in any political activities, with contesting parliamentary elections top of the list.
Other forces, such as the April 6 Youth Movement which was instrumental in the January 25 Revolution, launched a campaign under the title “Catch A Remnant” (Imsik Feloul), referring to the remnants of the former ruling party.
The most recent court ruling, however, has dealt a blow to the campaign and raised the morale of NDP’s diehards.
The court’s verdict also brought to an end all attempts by various lawyers, in the form of lawsuits nationwide, aimed at removing NDP members from the race.
The ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court stated that “stripping anyone of the right to participate in political life represents an attack on rights that are protected and guaranteed in the constitution.”
NDP supporters cheered the decision at the crowded court, chanting, “God is Great.”
Omar Haridi, a famous lawyer and a former NDP member of parliament who filed an appeal against the 10 November Mansoura ruling, commented that, “I dedicate this ruling to all the honourable sons of this country from all political parties, and not only the disbanded NDP.”
“It gives equal chances to everyone,” he said.
Semi-official statistics show that more than 1,500 former NDP members have registered to run as independents or on other party lists in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak election. They account for almost 12.5 per cent of the total number of independent and party-based candidates, which is estimated at 12,000.
NDP diehards have been able to form several parties, planning to gain a large number of seats.
Commenting on the verdict, Ali Al-Moselhi, a former minister of social solidarity and a member of NDP’s secretariat general, said that “it is undemocratic to exclude a big sector of society from exercising its political rights, while revolutions come to give the people the right of choice and the freedom of electing their candidates.”
“It should be completely left to voters to decide whom they should elect and whom they should not, but it is undemocratic to exclude candidates by force of court verdicts or legislation,” Moselhi added.
The youth movements of the January 25 Revolution have been pressuring SCAF to issue a law aimed at barring former NDP members from contesting the elections. They complained that SCAF has dragged its feet on this law and that its generals even support NDP stalwarts joining the race.
On 15 November, they sharply criticised SCAF. “This verdict is the result of SCAF’s hesitant policies and its refusal to take any move to prevent corrupt officials from the NDP from contesting the elections,” the 6 April Youth Movement said.
The National Democratic Party’s diehards, in reaction, warned SCAF against responding to the demands of the youth movements, threatening to cause a lot of trouble, making use of their strong familial and tribal connections across Egypt.
Haydar Boghdadi, an ex-NDP MP, said that “attempts aimed at excluding NDP’s veterans from joining the race only serve Islamist forces.”
“This is what the youth movements should be aware of,” said Boghdadi, adding that “it is not in the revolution’s interest to exclude the NDP from joining the race because this helps Islamists to dominate the next parliament and this is not good for the youth revolutionaries.”
Boghdadi views the campaign launched under the title “Catch a Remnant” as a big failure. “We are the old NDP diehards and we enjoy big popularity in our districts, and everywhere we go we are hailed by citizens,” he said.
Boghdadi is just one of several NDP high-profile veterans who are braced to compete strongly in the next elections. Boghdadi has been a member of parliament since 2000, winning the race without a run-off round in Cairo’s downtown district of Gamaliyya.
Other NDP veterans who will compete in the first stage of elections, scheduled to begin on 28 November, include Akmal Qortam, a business tycoon and the founder of the newly-licensed Conservatives Party. Qortam will stand in south Cairo’s district of Maadi and Helwan. Another NDP businessman – Ibrahim El-Abboudi – will also contest elections in Cairo’s downtown district of Qasr El-Nil, which includes the iconic Tahrir Square.
The hope by some of stripping NDP veterans of the right to stand for election is fading.
According to Haridi, “the door for filing lawsuits excluding NDP candidates was closed tight by the Supreme Administrative Court.”
He argued that, “we are in support of any legislations aimed at barring corrupt NDP officials from participating in political life, but it should be stated that accusations of corruption should be corroborated with sufficient documents and not on false charges.”