Foreign Policy Blogs

Egypt's New National Party

I want to highlight a story from a week and a half ago that I don’t think has received the attention it deserves: the decision of Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court to dissolve the National Democratic Party (NDP).  As Christian Science Monitor reported:

…[M]any in Egypt had feared that the party of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak could yet use its vast organizational network and resources to roll back the revolution – and win a wide swath of seats in parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

Those concerns subsided Saturday when Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court ordered the dissolution of the NDP.

But, as the Wall Street Journal notes, the NDP – in a re-branded form – may still pose an electoral threat in September’s parliamentary elections:

The organization’s continued confidence reveals the limits of the protesters’ goal of deposing the old regime. Despite 18 days of youth-led demonstrations calling for democracy, Egypt’s new democratic system will nevertheless need to accommodate at least some of the same political figures protesters fought so hard to depose.

“They will succeed [in parliamentary elections] but not easily. Not as such that they could as the old party,” said Abullah Helmy, a leader in the Revolutionary Youth Union, one of the groups representing the protest movement. “They need new cash, new bank accounts, new premises, new cohesion. They need new everything.”

Yet the old NDP appears more than ready to turn over a new leaf. Last week, party members elected Talaat Sadat, the nephew of the party’s founder and a trenchant critic of the NDP before the revolution, as their new leader in place of former President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Sadat announced that he was renaming the party the “New National Party” and purging the group’s ranks of unpopular and corrupt officials…

Despite what seems like universal disdain among the Egyptian public, the New National Party is well-positioned to exploit the NDP’s long heritage of one-party rule. In September’s parliamentary elections, the party can rely on its bedrock of support in rural areas, where the old NDP spent generations building a vast scaffolding of influence and patronage.

Some are mainly concerned with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.  And while I find the dangers exaggerated, that is certainly something to watch.  But another, and perhaps more important, thing to watch is the endeavor of the former NDP to regain as great a share as possible of its former power.