Egypt's decades-long ruling party consigned to dust

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 16 Apr 2011

After 33 years of a stranglehold monopoly on power, the National Democratic Party has been dissolved and its assets sequestrated by the Supreme Administrative Court

A banner from the 2010 parliamentary election reads: 'NDP for your children's future,' in front of NDP burn-out headquarters. (Photo: Mahmoud Khaled)

After lengthy judicial disputes, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) has ordered that the 33-year-old National Democratic Party (NDP) be dissolved and its assets, including its central headquarters in Cairo and provincial offices in 29 governorates, be sequestrated.

The SAC order came after three complaints lodged by Mostafa Bakri, editor of the weekly Al-Osbou, Ahmed Al-Fadally, chairman of the Democratic Peace Party, and Mahmoud Abul-Enein, a political activist. The complaints were supported by SAC legal officers who recommended that the NDP be disbanded and its assets turned over to the government. 

According to a report prepared by SAC legal officers, the NDP violated the values and principles upon which it was founded back in August 1978. “The NDP violated articles 4, 8, and 17 of the Political Parties Law enacted in 1977,” said the report, arguing that “while these articles state that political parties should call for democratisation and national unity, the NDP opted to monopolise power, instill social disunity, spread political corruption and abuse of rights and freedoms enshrined in the 1971 Constitution.” 

The NDP's despotic practices, concluded the SAC report, spurred the January 25 Revolution.

The SAC report also emphasised that “rather than strengthening the multi-party system, the NDP became interested in disrupting the performance of rival political parties, using the State Security Investigations appartus as a tool to explode political forces from the inside, detail political opponents and pursue discriminatory polices against an important sector of Egyptian society.” 

The report also argued that the NDP’s senior leaders exploited their leading positions to accumulate vast fortunes and created an illicit marriage with business tycoons who invaded the party’s ranks for personal and financial interests. “Not to mention,” the report added, “that the NDP’s senior leaders doubled as government officials and parliamentary heavyweights, thus disrupting the principle of separation among powers and causing the proliferation of favouritism and opportunism.”

The SAC report also indicated that the NDP played a major role in spreading despotic practices and was heavily involved in rigging elections, stripping the Egyptian people of their rightful say in public affairs, including selecting representatives in parliament in a fair and free way.”

The historic SAC order comes on the same day former president and head of the NDP Hosni Mubarak was transported from Sharm El-Sheikh International Hospital to a hospital outside Cairo to face further investigation into allegations of corruption and ordering the killing of peaceful protesters. 

Mubarak was appointed deputy chairman of the NDP when it was founded by late President Anwar El-Sadat in August 1978. When Mubarak took office on 14 October 1981, only a few days after the assassination of Sadat on 6 October 1981, he was selected as chairman of the NDP. Throughout his 30 years of rule, Mubarak ignored numerous calls from opposition forces to open up the NDP, deciding in 2000 to appoint his younger son Gamal as chairman of the party’s influential Policies Committee and then assistant secretary-general in February 2006. 

Gamal Mubarak’s policies, which favoured business tycoons, caused fury among opposition parties and youth-led dissent movements, resulting, eventually, in the January 25 Revolution.

The SAC order also comes four days after Talaat El-Sadat, the nephew of late President Sadat, was appointed chairman of the NDP. It also comes after several NDP senior leaders, including the party’s secretary-general and leader of the old guard Safwat El-Sherif, Zakaria Azmi, the former chief of presidential staff and assistant secretary-general, and Ahmed Ezz, Gamal Mubarak’s right-hand man, steel magnate and secretary for organisational affairs, were remanded in custody on murder and corruption charges.

NDP Spokesman Nabil Louka Bibawi told Ahram Online that “although the SAC’s order must be implemented immediately, it could be appealed against, and this what the NDP’s leaders will do.” In Bibawi’s words, “We respect the SAC order, but we also have the right to appeal against it.” 

Bibawi explained that "there are as many 400 NDP offices all over Egypt. Some are owned by the NDP and others (around 100) are rented by the party.” “We are ready to give up the rented [offices] and we will appeal against the order to keep the other offices in our possession,” said Bibawi.

Commenting on the SAC decision, Yehia El-Gammal, deputy prime minister, indicated that the NDP lost legitimacy after the January 25 Revolution. “And even before Mubarak was deposed, argued El-Gammal, “the NDP was considered by most Egyptians as a political club for opportunists.” 

El-Gammal also argued that “in its last days, the NDP was involved in anti-January 25 Revolution activities, trying to launch a counter-coup.” 

El-Gammal admitted that the protests organised in Tahrir Square on 1 and 8 April speeded up the dissolution of the NDP, giving the government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and the judicial branch justification to launch a final strike against the NDP.

El-Gammal believes that the SAC order opens a new page in the political history of Egypt. “It will be a page free of political corruption and opportunism, and the turning of another page of real political multi-polarity and competitiveness,” said El-Gammal.

Many believe that the dissolution of the NDP will automatically lead to the dissolution of all of Egypt’s local councils that were dominated by the NDP in the municipal elections of 2008. This will achieve two of the main demands of the leaders of the January 25 Revolution who decided not to stage protests in Tahrir Square last Friday, opting to give the government and SCAF a chance to implement more of the revolution’s demands.

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