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Farewell, NDP?

The 33-year-old NDP lives its worst of times, with most of its senior officials facing an avalanche of corruption charges and a large number of members fleeing the sinking ship

Gamal Essam El-Din, Wednesday 16 Feb 2011
Senior officials of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party, NDP, from left, Ali Eddin Hilal, Ahmed Ezz and Safwat el-Sherif attend a press conference (Photo: AP)

The resignation of Hosni Mubarak from office as president of Egypt on 11 February has left his ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in tatters. Several former senior party officials decided to resign, including businessmen and physician Hossam Badrawi, who was appointed secretary-general on 5 February.

Badrawi, who resigned just one hour before Mubarak was ousted from power, said “the next stage needs new parties with new blood and the NDP is no longer qualified to adjust to this stage.”

Even before Egypt's Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) decide to dissolve parliament on 13 February, tens of NDP MPs decided to resign. As one former NDP said, “we all decided to leave the boat before it sank deep into the water.”

Some NDP officials, however, decided to stay. NDP's six-member executive office met on 14 February and decided to appoint Mohamed Ragab, NDP's old-time spokesman in the Shura Council, as the NDP's new secretary-general. It was also decided that Ragab would keep his position as NDP's secretary for organisational affairs.

Ragab was appointed to this position instead of Ahmed Ezz, the steel maganate who was the right hand man of Mubarak's son Gamal. Ragab indicated that he would stay in office until a new NDP conference is held and a new chairman is elected.

Mohamed Abdellah, NDP's secretary for media affairs and a former president of Alexandria university, said “several members of the NDP reject dissolving the party.” In Abdellah's words “this is not good for Egypt, which will be in a desperate need in the coming period for a politically competitive life.”

Meanwhile, most of NDP's former senior officials have disappeared from political life. Gamal Mubarak, the son of former president Hosni Mubarak and chairman of the NDP's policies committee, left for the Red Sea resort of  Sharm El-Sheikh with his father and family.

Rumours are rampant that the families of Gamal and his brother Alaa have left for London.

Gamal and Alaa's mother Susan comes from an English family. Her mother, who worked in Egypt as a nurse during the second world war, is Welsh. Gamal is widely believed to have a dual Egyptian-British nationality. He stayed in London for almost ten years, working with Bank of America and selling Egyptian debts.

Zakaria Azmi, chief of Mubarak's staff and NDP's former secretary for financial affairs, is widely believed to be with Mubarak in Sharm El-Sheikh. Azmi was appointed chief of Mubarak's staff in 1989. Al-Ahram newspaper cited Azmi on Tuesday as dismissing reports that he owns four villas in the Mediterranean resort of Marina west of Alexandria.

“All I have is a small chalet I bought from the Bank of Housing and Reconstruction,” Azmi was cited as saying. Azmi, however, is widely believed to have strong connections with businessmen.

Azmi admitted in parliament he has close relations with Mamdouh Ismail, a businessman who monopolised maritime transport between Egypt and Saudi Arabi and was convicted of causing the death of more than one thousand Egyptians when one of his ferries sank into the deep water of the Red Sea.

Azmi is married to Tahani Halawa, an Ahram journalist who was made editor of a new magazine by the name of “Diwan Al-Ahram.” Azmi lives in the deluxe district of El-Tagammu Al-Khamis east of Cairo.

Safwat El-Sherif, NDP's former secretary general, has not been seen in public since 5 February. El-Sherif lives in Heliopolis and owns a villa in the high-class resort of Tagammu Al-Khamis east of Cairo. Al-Ahram also cited El-Sherif on Tuesday as dismissing reports that he owns a villa in Marina. Assem El-Gohary, chairman of The Illicit Gains Office (IGO), affiliated to the Ministry of Justice, indicated on Tuesday that no travel ban was imposed on Azmi or El-Sherif.

El-Gohary, however, indicated that IGO is currently investigating the wealth of Azmi, El-Sherif, Gamal Mubarak and the other 30 members of NDP's secretariat-general. 

This spawned rumours that El-Sherif might have left the country for London or Paris before he faces interrogation from prosecution authorities. Some lawyers lodged complaints with the prosecutor-general, accusing El-Sherif of peddling influence to help his son Ashraf get hold of more than 500 feddans on Cairo-Alex's agricultural road.

Complaints also alleged that while in office for 22 years as minister of information, El-Sherif helped his son get a lot of business contracts in the media sector. Several European countries announced on 14 February that the Egyptian government has asked them to freeze the assets of several former officials.

Ahmed Ezz, NDP's former secretary for organisational affairs, appeared on the Saudi-funded television of Al-Arabiya on 14 February, denying allegations that he misused public funds or exercised monopolies on the steel market. Ezz was banned from travelling abroad and his banking assets were frozen.

Ezz lives in a luxurious suite in the five-star hotel “Four Seasons” overlooking the Nile in Cairo's downtown district of Garden City.

Moufid Shehab, NDP's former secretary for parliamentary affairs and currently a minister of the People's Assembly affairs, was the only NDP senior official who appeared in public. Shehab attended the interim government's meeting on Monday, sitting beside prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

But all believe that Shehab's political future has come to an end, just like former parliamentary speaker Fathi Sorour and chairman of Shura Council Safwat El-Sherif.

The fact that the People's Assembly was dissolved, that new parliamentary elections will be held, and that El-Tahrir protesters ask for eliminating Mubarak's men, with Shehab on top of them, from the future political life, means that Shehab will have no role to play in next period. Shehab, however, has so far proved that he is immune to allegations of corruption.

Alieddin Hilal, NDP's former member of executive office and secretary for media affairs, has also completely disappeared since 5 February. Hilal was a strong advocate for fielding Mubarak for a sixth term in office.

In his capacity as NDP's media secretary, Hilal was responsible for ensuring that editors of state-owned newspapers tow NDP's line.

Although he was a respected professor of political science in Cairo University, Hilal was accused by opposition forces of putting his experience at the service of Gamal Mubarak in terms of helping him inherit power from his father. Like Shehab, Hilal has so far proved immune to sharp attacks from the 25 January revolution's activists or accusations that he was implicated in corruption practices. All, however, agree that the 25 January revolution has brought his political life to a dramatic end.

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