This resource was published on 09/22/2011 and is not updated to reflect changing circumstances.
The National Democratic Party (NDP), Egypt’s former ruling party, first established by President Anwar Sadat in 1976, remained the country’s dominant party until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. It tried to survive by announcing on April 13 that it would participate in the forthcoming elections under the name New National Party and under new leadership. Nevertheless, the Supreme Administrative Court issued a ruling on April 16 ordering that the NDP be dissolved for engaging in corruption and election fraud during Mubarak’s rule. The ruling also mandated the seizure of the party’s assets—including bank accounts and properties—which an NDP lawyer estimated could amount to as much as $70 million. Although the NDP was dissolved, its members will be able to participate in the elections not only as voters but as candidates as well. The NDP has since been trying to revive itself through the formation of new front parties including the Egyptian Citizen Party, Egypt Renaissance Party, Freedom Party, and al-Itihad, which prominent NDP member Hossam Badrawy founded in September 2011.
The information below pertains to the old NDP, and is published here because of the historical importance of the party and because it is possible that segments of the old party will be able to continue operating under new names.
The National Democratic Party (NDP) was established in 1976 when President Anwar Sadat split the Arab Socialist Union into three separate political organizations representing the right, center, and left wings of the political spectrum. The NDP, briefly called the Arab Socialist Organization of Egypt, was the centrist bloc and remained under Sadat’s control. It has dominated the Egyptian political scene ever since.
Former Secretary General Safwat al-Sherif, who was also speaker of the Shura Council, has been a major figure in the ruling elite for decades. The former president’s son, Gamal Mubarak, was a deputy secretary of the party and head of its Policies Committee, an influential body he founded to oversee the formulation of party policies on a range of social, economic, and political issues. From approximately 2002 until the revolution in 2011, party leadership was polarized between an old guard headed by Safwat al-Sherif and a new guard affiliated with the business elite and headed by Gamal Mubarak.
Since its founding, the NDP has had always dominated Egypt’s representative institutions, and according to the party’s website, it has had won majorities ranging from 75 percent to 95 percent in every parliamentary election since 1979. The party is entrenched in state institutions and is deeply invested in preserving the political status quo. Under Mubarak’s regime, the party was entrenched in state institutions and deeply invested in preserving the political status quo. Prior to the January 2011 uprising, the NDP claimed to have a membership of 1.9 million people.
During the last decade, the NDP sponsored significant economic reforms, limited political reforms, and had undertaken a program of modernization within the party itself. Changes inside the party included restructuring leadership bodies, creating new committees, expanding opportunities for women and youth, and staging internal elections for party offices with the exception of top leadership posts.
During the first round of the November 2010 parliamentary elections, the NDP won 209 of 211 seats outright (approximately 95 percent) with the remaining seats going into a second, run-off round. Amid widespread allegations of ballot fraud and vote-rigging, several opposition forces including al-Wafd, al-Ghad, and the Muslim Brotherhood decided to boycott the run-off round on December 5. With nearly all opposition candidates abstaining from the second round, the NDP easily secured 420 of the 508 available seats. This left the NDP with an 87 percent majority in the People’s Assembly; in addition, many of the nominal independents making up the remainder of the assembly were former NDP members. The results prompted a severe backlash from opposition and civil society groups, which accused the ruling party of rigging the election and staged several days of protests.
During the uprising that took place between January 25 and February 11, 2011, President Mubarak made changes in the NDP in unsuccessful effort to appease demonstrators. He removed his son Gamal and most of his supporters from influential positions and replaced longtime Secretary General Safwat Sherif with Hossam Badrawi, known as a liberal and proponent of political reform within the party. Badrawi and many other prominent NDP members resigned, however, shortly before Mubarak was forced from office.
After Mubarak left office, Mohammad Ragab became secretary general and dismissed 21 leading NDP figures allegedly involved in corruption. Among those removed were the NDP’s former Secretary for Organizational Affairs, Ahmed Ezz; former head of the NDP’s Policies Committee, Gamal Mubarak; former Secretary General Safwat al-Sherif; Hosni Mubarak’s chief of staff, Zakaria Azmi; and the NDP’s former secretary for parliamentary affairs, Moufid Shehab.
Despite these disruptive leadership changes, the NDP attempted to retain a foothold in the post-Mubarak political process. Less than two weeks after Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, the NDP issued a formal statement insisting that the party was committed to the same reforms demanded by youth protesters in Tahrir Square. The NDP also declared plans for bottom-up structural reforms in the party, which began with the removal of Hosni Mubarak from his former position as party chairman. The party also acted to freeze the membership of individuals currently under investigation until their cases have been resolved. The NDP also announced an initiative to enhance the role of youth members in the party’s internal affairs and possibly creating opportunities for them to represent the party in the coming parliamentary elections.
Regarding the NDP’s preparations for upcoming elections, Secretary General Ragab has stated that the party will not nominate its own candidates for the presidential election, but will endorse the best candidate from outside of the party. Rajab confirmed that the party is preparing to contest upcoming parliamentary elections. The party will not field candidates in all districts, as has been the case in previous years, but will focus on the races that it is most likely to win. Despite the NDP’s weakened state, observers have suggested that the former ruling party is still better prepared to contest upcoming elections than newer and relatively inexperienced parties. While many opposition parties sought to delay the timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections in order to better prepare themselves, the NDP strongly backed a March 19 constitutional referendum that paved the way for elections within six months.
In April 2011, the NDP announced that it had appointed Talaat Sadat, a nephew of Anwar Sadat and an outspoken critic of Mubarak’s regime, as the party’s new chairman.
Major Party Figures
- Hosni Mubarak: Former Party President (until February 2011)
- Safwat al-Sherif: Former Secretary General (until February 5, 2011)
- Gamal Mubarak: Former Assistant Secretary General and Head of Policies Committee (until February 5, 2011)
- Ahmed Ezz: Former Secretary for Organizational Affairs (until January 29, 2011)
- Moufid Shehab: Former Secretary for Parliamentary Affairs (until February 5, 2011)
- Hossam Badrawy: Secretary General (February 5, 2011-February 11, 2011)
- Talaat Sadat: President (April 11, 2011 – April 16, 2011)
- Mohamad Ragab: Assistant Secretary General (February 5, 2011- April 11, 2011) and Secretary General (April 11, 2011 – April 16, 2011)
- Mohamed Shetta: Leading member (until April 16, 2011)
The NDP in Power
Presence in governing institutions: Over the course of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, the NDP functioned as an instrument of executive power and a mechanism for patronage distribution. In addition to its control of core legislative institutions, the NDP dominated Egyptian cultural and political life through the educational system and through oversight committees that regulate the activities of authorized political parties and civil society organizations.
Economic reforms: In an effort to promote economic development, the NDP promoted several waves of reform since the mid-1970s aimed at attracting foreign investment and stimulating the private sector. The party repeatedly faced the challenge of striking a balance between Western demands for economic liberalization and popular pressure to preserve price controls and other features of the former socialist system. In the last decade businessmen who made fortunes as a result of such reforms came to occupy senior positions in the NDP and the cabinet.
Limited political reforms: Under Hosni Mubarak’s leadership, the NDP sponsored limited political reforms that included direct popular election of the president and the implementation of a quota for women in parliament in response to domestic and international pressures for reform. But the party had resisted implementing any changes that might tilt the balance of power in favor of an increasingly restless opposition.
Divide between old and new guard: As is the case with many of Egypt’s political parties and movements, the NDP displayed a clear split between an old guard and a younger, more reform-minded cohort. The NDP’s pro-reform camp, headed by Gamal Mubarak, promoted more aggressive economic reforms, privatization of state enterprises, modernization of government and party institutions, increased media and Internet freedom, and some improvements in human rights practices and civic freedoms. The old guard remained invested in state domination of the economy and other public spheres. During the 2011 uprising, the pro-reform wing tried to gain control in an effort to preserve the party’s hold on power.
Opposition to Islamists: The NDP was not an explicitly secular party, but under Hosni Mubarak’s leadership the party took decisive measures to limit the political influence of Islamist forces and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, the only real competition the party encountered. Reacting to a surprisingly strong showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2005 People’s Assembly elections (when they won 20 percent of the seats), the NDP sponsored an amendment to the constitution barring any political activity based on a religious frame of reference.
Constituency: Historically, the NDP drew much of its support from public-sector employees and rural areas. The party cultivated a strong constituency through its administration of public services, use of media, and ability to establish ties with local organizations and community leaders.
Media presence: The NDP’s official weekly newspaper was al-Watan al-Youm, although the party owned and managed sixteen other monthly and regional newspapers in addition to several radio stations under Mubarak’s rule. With its arsenal of widely circulated print publications and broadcast programs, the NDP was a prominent fixture in Egypt’s media landscape. In the aftermath of the 2011 uprising, the NDP’s official website was taken offline.