The dissolution of the NDP

Hassan Nafaa   في الخميس 21 ابريل 2011


Like millions of Egyptians, I rejoiced at the Higher Administrative Court’s ruling to disband the National Democratic Party (NDP) and return its assets to the state. Some people were not optimistic about taking the matter to court, fearing it would get stuck in legal limbo or that the party’s lawyers would find some loophole to bring the case down. Many preferred an immediate dissolution of the NDP, even if that came through an administrative decision.

The fact that a quick judicial ruling was issued to dismantle the party put an end to any suspicions of maneuver or blackmail. This ruling marks a new chapter in the history of political life in Egypt, one in which the judiciary will become a significant player in protecting the collective rights of citizens and keeping the executive authority on the right path.

The dissolution of the NDP is both just and logical for several reasons. First, the party was established by a presidential decision, and hence the NDP was born as a ruling party instead of becoming one through the ballot boxes. Second, the NDP has obtained most of its financial and physical resources from the state. Financed by taxpayers, these assets belong to the people, not the ruler; their exclusive use by the NDP constitutes a crime punishable by law. Third, the NDP has corrupted political life and enabled the president to maintain his grip on Egypt’s legislative authority through the rigged elections.

The dissolution of the NDP does not, however, mean that all those who joined its ranks are corrupt. Those NDP members who were directly or indirectly involved in crimes punishable by law -- such as torture, killing and the illegal acquisition of state-owned land -- should be temporarily stripped of their political and civil rights. However, other party members should be allowed to fully exercise these rights, including the right to form new parties or to join existing ones.

The decision to disband the NDP should spark a dialogue about the right of politicians -- especially presidents, prime ministers and cabinet members -- to form political parties while in power. In most democratic states, there are no legal barriers that prevent state officials from forming new parties. But the Egyptian case is unique. Former President Anwar al-Sadat’s unilateral decision to establish the NDP in 1978 was the first step towards thwarting political pluralism in Egypt. For the time being, it may be appropriate  to include an article in the new Political Parties Law that bans active state officials from forming new parties, even as a temporary provision to allow for the establishment of a genuine democracy.

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