After four meetings of intensive debates and deliberations, the government-adopted National Consensus Conference, held at Parliament, recommended that leading members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) be banned from carrying out any political activities for at least five years.
The Conference’s Electoral Systems Committee (ESC), led by Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Rabie Hashem, unanimously voted in favour of preventing all NDP’s senior officials and leading members who joined the two houses of parliament – the People’s Assembly and Shura Council - during the 2005-2010 years, or who stood in the parliamentary elections of 2010, from having any public or political roles for at least five years. “This means that those leaders who had a hand in corrupting political life for decades must be prevented from standing in all types of elections,” said an ESC statement.
It added that “the ban should include NDP’s 14-member political politburo; the 32-member secretariat-general; and chairmen of the party’s seven committees, especially the Policies Committee which was led by Gamal, Mubarak’s younger son who had been grooming himself for the presidency since 2000.”
ESC’s statement went as far as recommending that chairmen of NDP’s provincial offices at the level of governorates, cities, districts and local council units also be prevented from participating in political life or standing in elections. “All of these high-profile and middle-rank leaders should be banned from standing in the elections for the two houses of parliament, and the elections of local councils, professional syndicates and labour unions,” said the ESC statement. It argued that “all those had actively participated in rigging elections, corrupting parliamentary and political life, and reinforcing the despotic ambitions of Mubarak.”
ESC statement also recommended that the ban should be extended to include former board chairmen and editors of state-run newspapers and magazines. In the words of ESC, “these people were heavily involved in misleading public opinion and exploiting their positions to drum up support for the NDP at the expense of truth and for personal privileges.”
On 16 April, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) ordered that Mubarak’s 33-year-old NDP be disbanded and its headquarters appropriated. The order, however, fell short of imposing a veto on NDP’s leaders exercising political rights and standing in elections. ESC’s chairman Rabie said, “it was necessary that the judicial order be complemented by imposing a political ban on NDP’s old members and diehards.” Hashem revealed that as a political and parliamentary analyst, he drew up a blacklist including almost three thousand NDP members who should be disqualified from exercising any political activities, especially standing in elections. “The names on this list played, in one way or another, a role in corrupting political life and exploiting parliamentary membership for rubberstamping NDP-inspired laws and constitutional amendments in return for personal privileges and accumulating wealth,” said Hashem.
Hashem believes that regardless of the ban, it has become quite impossible for NDP’s senior officials – such as Mubarak’s long-time chief of staff Zakaria Azmi, parliament’s longest-serving speaker Fathi Sorour, or NDP’s secretary-general and old guard leader Safwat El-Sherif – to be involved in politics any more. “Right now, they are in jail awaiting different corruption trials and will no longer be able to play politics in the future, “ said Rabie, adding that, “the problem is with NDP’s middle-level members – particularly members of parliament and chairmen of provincial offices – who exploited their positions for personal gain.” He argued that, “it was important to impose a ban on them to prevent them from infiltrating political life again.”
Many believe that local councils must be disbanded as soon as possible as because these are still dominated by middle-rank corrupt NDP leaders. “These can stand in parliamentary and local council elections again and get a lot of seats, especially if the individual candidacy system is to be implemented in the next parliamentary polls,” said ESC’s member Ahmed El-Gibaili.
ESC’s recommendation, however, provoked a backlash. NDP’s former diehards said it is against democracy and the ideals of the January 25 Revolution. Mohamed Ragab, an old-time politician who was appointed NDP’s secretary-general on 5 February, six days before Mubarak’s ouster, told Ahram Online that ESC’s recommendation is undemocratic. “If this recommendation is to be adopted, it could cause internal political strife and sow the seeds of a civil war in Egypt.” Ragab believes that “stripping former NDP members of the right to stand in elections will only serve Islamist forces – especially the Muslim Brotherhood – in the form of dominating sweeping parliamentary elections, scheduled next September.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Muslim Brotherhood leaders have said that they are against banning former NDP officials from exercising political rights. “This is against democracy,” said one of the Brotherhood’s senior officials, Essam El-Erian, arguing that “it should be left to voting boxes and citizens to prevent the members of a certain force from exercising any political roles, rather than official bans or decrees.”
By contrast, Osama El-Ghazali Harb, leader of the liberal-oriented Democratic Front Party, said he is in favor of “kicking NDP’s old members out of politics and parliamentary life for a definite number of years, until they adapt to the new democratic conditions.” He argued that: “These NDP diehards have never been on the side of liberal political rights, and chose to be in support of despotic practices,” adding that “and for these reasons, it is necessary to keep them in isolation from political life for some years until they lose all kinds of influence.”
Yehia El-Gamal, Egypt's deputy prime minister, said “recommendations proposed by the National Consensus Conference will be submitted to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).” El-Gamal said “the Conference is aimed at proposing guidelines for the next constitution and the law regulating parliament and SCAF vowed it would implement its recommendations.”