The gutted headquarters of Egypt's former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) sits blackened and abandoned after having been torched during February's pro-democracy revolution. Many of the party’s leading figures are now in jail awaiting trial or charges.
Still, many 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.
“It’s illogical for any instruments of the regime to remain, now that the regime itself has fallen," said the court in a statement. The court also ordered the party’s vast assets be liquidated and the funds turned over to the state. “This money is actually the money of the people,” it said.
The decision, which meets a key demand of the revolutionaries, comes after several moves by Egypt’s interim military rulers that indicate a desire to defuse criticism that they had not been moving quickly enough to dismantle the old power system Egyptians went to the streets to overthrow. Last week, for instance, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered Mubarak and his two sons detained for 15 days for corruption investigations.
The NDP had tried to remake itself in recent weeks, with a new leader who expelled some members and christened it with a new name. But even if the remaining members of the NDP form a new party, it will not be a threat in September, says Emad Gad, an analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
The party’s basis of power is gone, and “respectable” figures in the party have already left, with most looking to join other parties, says Mr. Gad.
“The National Democratic Party was not a real party, it was just a collection of interests,” he says. “The main source of power for this party was the overlapping with the authority, with the government. So after the collapse of Mubarak’s regime, the party is over.”
Gad estimates that any reconstituted or renamed NDP would only get about 4-5 percent of the vote in September because its image is now negative.
In the absence of the NDP, the electoral field in September will be wide open for the Muslim Brotherhood, the best-organized political group, to perform strongly.
The NDP was founded by former President Anwar Sadat in 1978. Under Mubarak’s three-decade rule, it became an arm of the regime, with little separation between party and government.
The president’s son, Gamal, was given a top position in the party in 2002, amid rising speculation that he was being groomed to succeed his father. Now he, along with former top officials Safwat El Sherif and Ahmed Ezz, is in jail awaiting corruption charges.
The party’s majority in Egypt’s parliament ranged over the years from overwhelming to crushing.
In elections in November and December widely seen as fraudulent, it won more than 95 percent of the seats in the lower house of parliament.
The detention order for Mubarak and his sons came after tens of thousands of protesters gathered April 8 to demand the military council temporarily ruling Egypt take quicker action.
The Army later moved to end what had turned into a sit-in by several thousand protesters, using force and killing at least one person. As pressure mounted, the military ordered Mubarak and his sons detained, and then released a statement announcing it would reconsider the sentences of thousands of protesters who have been detained and sentenced in military tribunals without civilian lawyers.
Some in Egypt saw Saturday’s court decision as another attempt to satisfy protesters and prevent further unrest.