Egypt: Mubarak party leaders can run for elections

The decision opens the door for old regime figures to return to the country’s stifled political scene

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An Egyptian appeals court ruled Monday that leaders of the former ruling party of ousted President Hosni Mubarak will not be barred from running for elections, opening the door for old regime figures to return to the country’s stifled political scene.

The decision by the Cairo Appeals Court for Urgent Matters overturns an earlier ruling that banned leaders of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party from taking part in any elections.

The party was dissolved following the uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2011. A number of the party leaders formed new parties, while others joined existing ones. In 2012, an Islamist-dominated committee drafting the country’s new constitution pushed an article in the charter that bars the NDP leaders from taking part in political life for 10 years. Following the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, the article was scrapped when amendments were made to the charter.

The appeals court said Monday the lower court had no jurisdiction to bar people from running for elections. At the time, the lower court didn’t define what constituted being a party leader.

Observers are predicting former NDP members will make a strong comeback in parliamentary elections expected later this year, because they still have strong family and tribal networks and a tight system of patronage developed during the Mubarak years.

The country’s other most powerful political force, the Muslim Brotherhood, was declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood’s political party is facing litigation calling for its dissolution. Security forces also went after the group’s leaders, imprisoning thousands of its members and accusing it of waging a violent campaign against the government.

The Brotherhood denies it adopts violence and is keeping up protests against the government, accusing it of orchestrating a coup.

Mohammed Mahsoub, a leader of the Islamist party al-Wasat and a member of the Brotherhood-led coalition, wrote on his Twitter account that the return of the Mubarak party leaders to politics “is a restoration of the unjust and corrupt state.”

Newly formed liberal parties have made only limited inroads on the political scene, failing to galvanize popular support or form alliances that can challenge the two traditional powerhouses.

Furthermore, a newly passed election law favors candidates running as individuals, not on party lists, giving former ruling party figures and local notables an advantage in the coming elections. The new election law states that 420 seats of the nearly 600-member parliament will be elected as independents, with 120 chosen from party lists.

Liberal and newly formed parties are campaigning against the law, demanding a greater proportion be chosen from party lists.

“The current electoral system is biased in favor of the rich in society, lawmakers with tribal and traditional associations in rural Egypt and businessmen,” said a statement last week signed by six liberal and leftist parties and a number of public figures.

The law “marginalizes the multiparty system in Egypt because it promotes personal traits of individual candidate at the expense of political affiliation, thus impeding the country’s democratic transformation,” it said.

The parties said they have not received any response for the calls from the president, who currently holds legislative powers.