The NDP is dead; long live the NDP?

Nabil Shawkat , Sunday 6 Feb 2011

We have killed our ruling party, and its ghost is coming back to haunt us

Mubarak is now out of the picture, perhaps by orders of his vice president. He is not going to be part of the future of this country. He will either leave Egypt in an “honourable” way, or just be pushed to the back to sign papers and rolled out on occasion to repeat a few well-rehearsed phrases. Mubarak is no more. His son is no more. His party is no more. But the spirit of his rule, the essence of his regime, and the methods of his era are far from over.

It is dangerous to kill a ruling party, because like the hydra of lore, ruling parties have many heads, far-reaching tentacles, and very deep pockets. I know the army has denounced any connection with the pro-Mubarak marauders, but the repudiation is far from being completely sincere. Only yesterday I walked by a security truck near the Italian Club in Bulak, north of Tahrir Square. Inside it, a plainclothes official was organising a small mob to attack or harass a certain person. I heard the order given while I was passing by, so I looked at the license plates. Sure enough, they were army plates.

For the past few days, the army was accusing unnamed people of wearing its uniforms to spread chaos. Perhaps this was a stolen army vehicle. But then again, perhaps it wasn’t.

The signs are already worrying. The prime minister, Ahmad Shafiq, appeared on television more than once, disassociating himself from the violence against demonstrators and saying that he did not give any orders to that effect. I believe him. And then again, I know that some orders have been given. For the marauders are just too organised to lack leadership.

Shafiq may have been telling the truth. But Omar Soliman, vice president and interim president-in-waiting, didn’t deign to come clean. In his first television interview, he gave the impression that he was running the country, that – if he wanted – he could tell Mubarak to go to his room and stay there. The same day, Christiane Amanpour interviewed the president, but without the benefit of a camera. Mubarak has been “grounded”, no longer allowed to play with the media in public.

Then Soliman uttered his first lie. He said that the Tahrir demonstrators, who practically brought him to at least transitional power, were being manipulated by “foreign agendas”. This was the first lie from a fresh regime, and it had the bitter taste of the deposed one. Soliman made the statement on Thursday, the same day that saw a witch hunt of foreign journalists in Cairo, with dozens beaten, arrested, and their cameras taken away or smashed. I was in Tahrir Square that day. I had my ID checked several times by disbanded internal security personnel guarding the pro-Mubarak marauders, and one of them volunteered the fact that they had “caught” a Jew in Tahrir Square.

“So what if they found fifty Jews?” I said. He didn’t answer. The day before, they discovered an Israeli engineer sitting at a coffeehouse in Port Said or Ismailia. This was supposed to be proof of something, damning evidence against the Tahrir protestors.

If it looks like the NDP, talks like the NDP, and walks like the NDP, perhaps it is the NDP. I know that our ruling party is charred, barred and bruised. It can no longer sport the glamorous “new look” of Gamal Mubarak or dance to the intricate choreography of Ahmad Ezz. But the NDP lives on.

In ancient Egypt, the period of mourning for the dead was 40 days. It was the period the dead need to travel from the world of the living to the underworld of eternity. The NDP has only been dead for a week or so, and its ghost is still running around like a chicken with its head cut off, shouting support for a president who is sulking in his bedroom, ranting against invisible “foreign agendas”, and giving orders from abandoned or donated army vehicles. If this goes beyond the 40 day period of mourning, then there is a chance that a new NDP is going to rise from the ashes and make us tremble once again.


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