The spectacle of the Cairo headquarters of Egypt’s former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) on fire is one of the most memorable in the 2011 revolution and became even more so following the toppling of the regime.
However, the ouster of Mubarak did not automatically mean the disbanding of the party and contrary to what is commonly believed Mubarak was not the last head of the party.
Mubarak was succeeded by former opposition MP the late Talaat al-Sadat who renamed the party the New National Democratic Party and declared his intention to reform in accordance with the principles of the revolution.
Yet, this did not last long for on April 16, 2011 the Cairo Administrative Court officially dissolved the party for good and its assets were handed to the government. While a considerable number of NDP figures remained in the political scene in one form or another, it is only now that talk about the party’s comeback started doing the rounds and so are speculations whether this is possible.
Calls for reinstating the NDP were initiated by Mohamed Ragab, the party’s last secretary general and the majority leader in the Consultative Council, the upper chamber of the Mubarak era bicameral parliament, “Around 90% of politicians working now were in the NDP and none of the current parties managed to fill the vacuum the NDP left, so why not bring it back?” Ragab said.
There are two ways of doing this, Ragab explained. The first is reinstating the old party and the second is establishing a new one with members of the old one.
“The advantages of the first option is that the party will get back its confiscated money and facilities, but that is not easy because it requires lengthy procedures and a court order.
The second option will be easier and in this case it can be called the New National Democratic Party.” Ragab argued that the members of the old NDP were demonized by the Muslim Brotherhood who wanted to usurp power. “However, this attempt failed not only because most of them committed no legal violations, but also because none of the new parties managed to replace the NDP.”
Ragab said that steps towards establishing the new party are expected to start after the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled on March 26-28.
According to journalist Safwat Omran, the Egypt Support Coalition at the House Representatives, which is comprised of 350 MPs, is preparing to turn into Egypt’s ruling party, hence becoming the new National Democratic Party.
“In this case, members of the parties included in the coalition, and which already support the regime and are led by former NDP members, will be automatically merged into the new party,” he wrote, explaining that these parties are Modern Egypt Party, the Conservatives Party, the Congress Party, Freedom Party, Homeland Defenders Party, and the Republican People’s Party.
“The only party that has not yet made its position clear is the Nation’s Future Party, which might join or remain independent.” Omran added that it is not clear whether the party will keep the name of the coalition. According to Omran, the idea of establishing such a party is for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to have a political entity that backs him in his second term. “The Egypt Support Coalition was the best candidate because it managed in the past stage to gain the trust of the regime.”
Professor of political science Gehad Ouda argued that while the Egypt Support Coalition backs state institutions in the parliament, it does not officially represent the government and cannot be the ruling party if its turns into a political party. “It cannot mean the return of the NDP or even something similar such as Nasser’s Socialist Union because in the current constitution the president cannot head a party,” he said.
Former Minister of Youths and senior NDP member Ali al-Din Helal disagreed and argued that the president has to have a party like everywhere else in the world. “This did not happen when President Sisi came to power because it was an exceptional moment when the people rose against the Muslim Brotherhood and his priority was to unite all Egyptians under his leadership rather than choose a certain party and exclude others,” he said.
“However, things are different now especially when the president wins a second term.” For Helal, establishing a ruling party will achieve more political stability provided that NDP mistakes are not repeated. “The problem with the NDP is that it was an extension of the Socialist Union, only in a new shape, so it treated the state, the party, and the government as one entity and wanted to have full control on the political scene,” he explained. “There was also that strong influence of businessmen and the interference of security entity in politics.”
Journalist al-Sayed Khairallah argues that it is impossible for any NDP members to be back to the political scene in the same capacity as before since they are “hypocrites,” as he labelled them. “They praise whoever is in power. Now they support President Sisi for a second term and you see them posting banners for him everywhere, but they did the same for members of the Muslim Brotherhood when they realized they would win,” he wrote.
Khairallah argued that even former NDP members who are currently members of parliament have proven incapable of representing the people. “They are almost nonexistent in their constituents and their only contribution is hanging greeting banners on holidays but they do nothing for their people. That is why they can never be trusted.” According to Khairallah, the president is aware of their hypocrisy and that is why he will not allow them to be part of any future plan.