The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged ndp
On the National Democratic Party

Tahrir Square on January 29 2011, with the NDP building burning in the background

In mid-January, I found myself at a seminar in Rome presenting a paper on Egypt's National Democratic Party. Others spoke about the economic situation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian foreign policy. We all shared a gloomy view of situation in Egypt at the twilight of the Mubarak era and predicted trouble in the year ahead as Gamal Mubarak would make his bid to succeed his father. A couple of days later, I went to Tunisia to cover the revolution there, and then cut that trip short to make it back to Cairo by January 28, the day protestors defeated the police and security services across the country.

My paper on the NDP saw the party as the battleground of elite politics over the last decade, a place where different elements of the regime fought out their parcel of privilege and influence. The prize, of course was first and foremost a claim to the succession of Hosni Mubarak, but also for the less ambitious a place in the post-Mubarak order. In the end the NDP, alongside the security services, were the chief targets of demonstrators (the party's offices were looted and burnt in many places, much like police stations.) The paper was updated after the revolution, but still largely consists of a narrative of the NDP as a battleground of the regime between 2000 and 2010.

You get the various essays, titled Egypt: A Neo-Authoritarian State Steering The Winds Of Change, here (PDF 2.5MB) or just read the intro here.

RIP, old guard

An addendum to my last post on the NDP shuffle.

The last week has marked the end of an important semi-secret group that has had an important impact on Egyptian political life over the last 40 years: the tanzim tali'i, or Vanguard Group, which was recruited in the 1960s by among Nasserist youth to be groomed to handle the country's political affairs and continue the legacy of the Free Officers. These people were meant to be the front for Egypt's deep state, the politicians who regulated public debate while the big decisions were made elsewhere.

From a forthcoming article I wrote on the NDP (which now has to be substantially revised), here is a passage that describes the initial attack on the "old guard" of the party by Gamal Mubarak and friends: 

Up to the 2000 People’s Assembly election, it was clearly an old guard triumvirate of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Youssef Wali (at the time the NDP’s Secretary General), Minister of Information Safwat al-Sherif (Deputy Secretary-General) and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Kamal al-Shazli (also Deputy Secretary-General) who had run the campaign, backed by a party secretariat comprising largely of loyalists, many of whom had held the same positions for a long period. All three men — alongside many other party and government officials — were a product of the early 1960s, when the Gamal Abdel Nasser regime sought to recruit a new generation of political operatives to consolidate the regime of the Free Officers’s 1952 coup. Aside from a military career, the best way to social and political advancement for ambitious young men at the time was to be selected as a member of the Tanzim Tali’i, a vanguard group that would become a major recruiting ground for both political managers of the al-Shazli mold and security officers. What had been created to provide future leadership for the Arab Socialist Union would eventually provide the NDP’s lasting leadership, which came to power with Hosni Mubarak and remaining largely unchanged until the early part of the last decade.

[. . .]

A first move was the removal of Youssef Wali (party secretary-general since 1985) by kicking him upstairs to the largely honorific position of deputy chairman. Although Wali remains on the 12-member Political Bureau (which has little executive power), he has control over the party and was to be removed from his position as Agriculture Minister in 2004, after 22 years at the post. Wali’s removal was accompanied, only weeks prior to the 2002 Congress, with an indirect attack on him: his undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Youssef Abdel Rahman, was arrested on corruption charges. Similarly, a few months earlier, Muhammad al-Wakeel, the director of news at Egyptian national television — personally appointed by Safwat al-Sherif — had been arrested for a procurement scandal, while a member of parliament known to be close to Kamal al-Shazli was arrested for loan fraud only a week before the Congress. 

If Wali was an early victim of Gamal’s rise in the NDP, the other two parts of the NDP’s “old guard” triumvirate survived longer, but were weakened. In the July 2004 cabinet shuffle that brought many Gamal associates to Egypt’s ministries, al-Shazli lost his portfolio as minister of parliamentary affairs (held since 1996) and al-Sherif the important portfolio of minister of information (held since 1982). Al-Shazli remained an important party electoral strategist in the 2005 elections — his knowledge of Egypt’s local politics was widely said to be unparalleled, helped by the fact that until he was, until his death in November 2010, one of the longest-serving parliamentarians in the world, having first been elected to the People’s Assembly in 1964. Even though he lost the key post of NDP Secretary for Organization (effectively, the party whip, held since the NDP’s creation in 1978) in February 2006, making way for key Gamal acolyte Ahmed Ezz, in the 2010 People’s Assembly elections al-Shazly was still considered a powerful kingmaker in many races, with some candidates complaining of his “comeback” up to his unexpected death on the campaign trail in his fiefdom of Bagour in late November 2010. 

As of late 2010, al-Sherif — whose early career, rooted in the intelligence services, distinguished him from his colleagues — remained the only “old guard” leader still in place, wielding considerable power both through his post in the NDP and as president of the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, a position that allows him to head the Political Parties Committee, the body that grants (or, more often, refuses) new parties their licenses and regulates partisan life, and the Higher Press Committee, which grants newspaper licenses.  The erosion of the power of the “old guard” was to be a long process, and indeed after 2006 — once key Gamal acolytes were in place — it became more accurate to talk of a power-sharing arrangement within a fragmented party rather than all-out rivalry between old and new guards. Indeed, al-Sherif maneuvered himself into an enthusiastic supporter of party reform, for instance telling party members in 2007 that “the party is still riddled with senior officials who resist change and contrive to occupy their positions for life.” 


Links for 10.26.09 to 10.27.09
LRB · Nicolas Pelham: Diary | Nic Pelham's diary about Gaza.
Almasry Alyoum | NDP Talks Youth | Second in a series on youth and the NDP in Egypt: “We have to use the Internet, especially with so many people trying to turn our achievements into failures and to tarnish the reputation of public symbols. We have to be present online to correct those misconceptions.” Now who could they be talking about?
Almasry Alyoum| Gamal Mubarak: Nepotism "Unknown To Private Sector" | In this story, Gamal says nepotism "is part of Egyptian culture." You don't say.
Chomsky Receives Highest Pentagon Honor | Chomsky book "Interventions" banned in Gitmo.
YouTube - Slackistan Trailer | This is a good and funny idea - you could do it in the Arab world, too.
Inanities: The Gamal Show | About Gamal's Sharek event: "The Gamal Show is Gamal Mubarak’s attempt to convince us that he’s Barack Obama."
Bakchich: Interroger des… interrogatoires | Accounts of police interrogations of non-fasters in Morocco, interrogates them about Abou Bakr Jamai (prominent editor forced into exile), and more. Thoroughly depressing.
Arab Media & Society | The end of the beginning: The failure of April 6th and the future of electronic activism in Egypt | About online activism, its failure so far, and how to move beyond cynicism.
Almasry Alyoum | Gamal Mubarak And The Power Of Web 2.0 | First in a series of articles about the NDP's efforts to attract young Egyptians to politics. This one focuses on Gamal Mubarak's "Sharek" (Participate) online Q&A event.
J Street's Ben-Ami On Zionism and Military Aid to Israel - Jeffrey Goldberg | A very revealing interview of J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami which conirms my doubts about the whole project.
Morocco press freedom on the decline, RSF study shows ( | A marked increase in fines, imprisonement and intimidation of the press.
Dar Al Hayat - A Presidential Battle without Candidates | Muhammad Salah on the Egyptian presidency.

Links for 10.24.09 to 10.25.09
Power play - The National Newspaper | M. Bazzi on Saudi-Syrian relations. Weirdly makes no mention of Lebanon.
Bikya Masr (BikyaMasr) on Twitter | Report: Ayman Nour attacked by security and NDP thugs in Hurghada.
Algérie-Maroc | Blog on Algerian-Moroccan relations.
Un propagandiste intéressé du régime tunisien - Les blogs du Diplo | Alain Gresh takes down Antoine Sfeir over his apologia for the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia.
“The State is an ostrich”: Algerian riots in the shadow of Power « The Moor Next Door | On the recent turmoil, and more generally the absence of a well-managed state in Algeria.
Arms Smugglers Into Gaza Face a New Foe: Egypt – | To Egypt's eternal shame!
«الإخوان المسلمون» ينتصبون ضدّ بيونسي | جريدة الأخبار | The Muslim Brothers take on Beyoncé.
Daily News Egypt -No Egyptian Films At The Cairo International Film Festival, Says Ciff President | er.... what?
Reporters Sans Frontières | Tunisia: Election campaign impossible for opposition media
Daily News Egypt - ‘Spinsters’ By Choice: Egypt’s Single Ladies Speak Out | About the Facebook group "Spinsters for Change".
Michael Gerson - Michael Gerson on Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa - | Rather lame column about the Mufti of Egypt makes no mention of his civil servant status.
The Empire Lovers Strike Back « P U L S E | Fantastic text by Gore Vidal from the 1980s, about the Podhoretzes and the Israel lobby in the US.
Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism « P U L S E | Excerpt from new book by M. Shahuid Alam.
Bikya Masr: Ayman Nour attacked in Hurghada

Follow Bikya Masr (BikyaMasr) on Twitter for reports on an attack on Ayman Nour and his supporters by a dozen security and NDP thugs.

As of 23:10:

  1. Nour has told us that he feels "endangered."

  2. Nour has stated he will remain inside until there is a response from the Hurghada General Prosecutor's office.

  3. At this time, Nour and his party remain trapped in the restaurant.

  4. Nour: ""this sinful coalition between sec. forces and NDP is the worst form of terrorism. They are punishing us for our tour in Luxor.”

  5. Statement from Nour: "The situation is really dangerous. This is a severe attack and an unforgivable escalation.”

  6. They said that they are “security forces aided by some members of the ruling National Democratic Party Council in Hurghada!”

  7. Some members of El-Ghad Party Committee in Hurghada recognized the attackers.

  8. Only a small truck of Tourism Police came to the location of the incident and left after few minutes without taking any action

  9. They tried to call the police and security forces to help them, but they never showed up

  10. Nour and colleagues were having dinner with members of Elghad Committee in Hurghada before they were to go to the airport for cairo

  11. attackers tried to steal Gawad’s camera and papers but the owner of the restaurant saved him and pulled him inside again to protect him.

  12. Nour and his assistants are still stuck inside the restaurant which is surrounded by the thugs who are shouting: Viva Mubarak, Viva Egypt!

  13. Ahmed Abdul Gawad, Nour’s media assistant was severely beaten and wounded.

  14. While leaving Star Fish restaurant in Sheraton St., in Hurghada, Ayman Nour and his assistants were violently attacked by a dozen of thugs

Links for 09.21.09 to 09.22.09
Ethnic Ashkenazim Against Zionist Israel: In Re: The persistence of the Massad question | The campaign against Joseph Massad starts anew.
Why Algeria’s Jihadist defectors don’t matter « Maghreb Politics Review | On Maghteb jihadists' recantations, focusing on Algeria.
Sirgo’s Labyrinth | New English-language Egypt-based blog.
The Next Minister Of Culture Will Be… | Potential candidates to succeed Farouq Hosni as Egyptian Minister of Culture: enter Gamal Mubarak's electoral strategist, Muhammad Kamal.
The NDP synagogue | On a Jewish temple in Heliopolis being used as ruling party office.
feeling more hate in Jerusalem | More insane views on Obama from Israelis.

Links for 09.13.09
Unwanted Guests | The Brave New World of Gamal's ruling party: "Have you noticed that this Ramadan many of the talk shows guests in Egyptian channels are from NDP ministers, businessmen, journalists and men who did not use to appear on TV ??"
Israel Timeline: The Long Way Home | NYT's timeline of Jewish-US-Israel-Oslo history. Makes no reference to pre-48 Palestinian politics, Arab revolt, etc.
Other Inscriptions: Sexual Difference and History Writing between Futures Past and Present | A review of Joseph Massad's "Desiring Arabs" finds that "It is perhaps in the argument about the Gay International that the book is both made and unmade."
Daily News Egypt - Azhar Scholars Say No To Using Quranic Verses As Logos | Move in part targets Muslim Brothers.
Navigating Egypt's bureaucracy with a child in tow - AP | Paul Schemm on the Mugamma.

Links for 08.14.09
Egypt: the blinkers of expertise | open Democracy News Analysis | A very interesting critique of dominant themes in the coverage of Egypt by journalists and political analysts.
Iran: A Yeltsin Moment is Needed | Oh savor the irony of newspapers owned by Saudi princes calling for reform and democracy in Iran. Besides, Yeltsin was a disaster (politically, economically and in terms of Russian human development) who led directly to Putin.
Hilo Hero: René Goscinny | Nothing to do with the Middle East, but this is a great blog.
Fustat: Gamal Mubarak song | Mohsen al-Sayed's song - I am going to have to get the lyrics.
Gary Wasserman - The AIPAC Case and Anti-Semitism - | Ludicrously poor argumentation in this piece: that there was no conviction in the Rosen-Weissman case does not mean there was no wrongdoing, and this is in such bad faith: "Of course the case hasn't been all bad for conspirators. The same year AIPAC fired its lobbyists, it used the troubles to raise a record $45 million. And having opponents exaggerate a lobby's power ends up enhancing that power." So now he's concerned that AIPAC used the incident to raise money?
EGYPT: Gamal Mubarak turns to the Web | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | On Gamal's web call-in, Sharek: "All questions were filtered by NDP officials." Need I say more?

Egyptian rumor of the week
Egypt just changed its rule banning the sale and use of GPS devices, which had caused among other things the iPhone to be crippled when bought inside the country. The rumored reason for the change: Ahmed Ezz, Gamal Mubarak's right-hand man, imported a luxury vehicle equipped with GPS that customs did not want to release. So he asked his buddy Gamal to change the regulations. I don't think this has any basis in reality, but it shows the kind of thinking around here when this is how some people think such policies (made essentially for military or commercial reasons) are decided. Think about it: if Ahmed Ezz wanted to, he could have just gotten his car in and used the GPS illegally, as many people already do.
New April 09 Arab Reform Bulletin
Khaled Hroub on Pressures on Hamas in Reconciliation Talks

The 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza affected Egypt more than any other country. While there is a possibility that Americans or Europeans would tolerate a Palestinian consensus including loosely-worded formulas that allow Hamas to participate, it is the Egyptians who are taking a hard-line approach and pressing Hamas into an unequivocal stance. Egypt wants to minimize the chances of Hamas winning future Palestinian elections. Egypt’s delicate domestic situation cannot withstand the emergence of a successful or partly successful Muslim Brotherhood-inspired experiment anywhere in the Arab world, and certainly not on its very doorstep. The situation is all the more sensitive because Hamas is confronting the Israeli occupation, deeply unpopular with most Egyptians, which provides a tool for Egyptian Islamists to use in mobilizing the street against the government. But Cairo is aware that Hamas’ position is awkward and its choices are limited, especially with escalating resentment against some of Hamas’ policies within Gaza before, during, and after the recent war, which is pushing Hamas to adopt a more flexible attitude.

Iman Baibars on Ramifications of Women’s Rights Initiatives:

While the NDP appears serious about increasing the number of women in parliament, it is not clear yet exactly which seats will be designated for women or how they will be selected. Will it be, for example, by means of an individual candidacy system, in which two women from each governorate are nominated (one a professional and another a laborer), a party list system, or some combination of the two? The quota is thus part of a larger discussion of overall reform of the oft-revised Egyptian electoral system. But in any case, it seems likely that a quota for women will be in place in time for the 2010 parliamentary elections. The question is no longer whether more women will enter parliament, but rather how this will be accomplished.


Intissar Fakir Western Sahara and Regional Security (IMHO overstates the security issues in the Sahel region from a US perspective, ignores political expediency of creating a "jihadist situation" in that sub-region for both local and external powers.)

Josh Landis on The Nexus of Economy, Diplomacy, and Reform (I like Landis but fear he's rather too sanguine about this: "President Assad has also promised to put political liberalization back on his agenda because he no longer believes Western powers seek to destabilize Syria." Forget liberalization, Assad will never do it!)