Will the NDP’s House of Cards Collapse?

Will the NDP’s House of Cards Collapse?

The regime argues that it won the 2010 elections because of its efficiency – despite the documented fraud -, as its candidates were highly trained and because communication groups were set up to cover nearly five million voters across the country with the NDP in constant contact with more than 10,000 balloting stations through calls and monitoring.

Egypt’s NDP was victorious in the 2010 elections despite internal struggles within the party. The NDP’s strategy to retain power dominated the elections that were marred by violence and fraud, which makes it a weak institution, and causes doubts whether it is truly a political institution.

People voting for the NDP choose their candidates for public or personal benefits. Being part of an invalid parliament is made worthwhile by the perks available to candidates, which include elevated social status and immunity from prosecution.

Keeping up the façade of democracy requires that both candidates and voters go through the motions of electoral integrity, and this seems to work as the Egyptian people, and the international community is constantly duped.

The MB emerged to attain positive peaceful change but the Egyptian Parliament was created as an instrument of the new revolutionary government in 1957 to get the people to support the revolution. After eliminating all opposition, elections were held between people who were loyal to the regime.

Parliament offered incentives to Egyptian citizens for their support, so legal and extra-legal channels of social services became vital and these targeted specific interest groups and so the regime rallied a multi-class base of supporters who went to the polls, not for political reasons, but to secure personal or group privileges.

The idea of using parliament to mobilize popular support for the ruling party, rather than to exercise democracy, survives until today. However, today the government intervenes in this apolitical process through legally-mandated institutions like the High Elections Commission and coercive security strategies.

The NDP was established in 1978 and it is not really a party, as its members do not share a common vision, and political discussions rarely take place.

Parliamentarians represent their own networks, not the government and the country’s best interests, and the base that has been conscripted to support the regime is beginning to fragment.

To control conflicting regional powers, the NDP adopted a party-list system in 1984 but Egypt returned to elections for individual candidates in 1990, revealing the NDP’s inability to control its own members.

NDP members who were not nominated by the party but still felt they had a chance to win because of their strong local connections, began to nominate themselves as NDP-affiliated independents and defeated their officially-nominated NDP rivals. After attaining victory many then rejoined the NDP. This farce reached its peak in the 2005 election, when NDP independents seized 161 seats while official NDP candidates took only 146, indicating the fragmentation and increasing independence of the regime’s local bases.

To overcome this in the 2010 elections, the NDP had its potential nominees sign a declaration stating that the party had the right to withdraw the nomination papers of any NDP candidate who was not officially selected by the party while it nominated more than one party candidate per seat for about half of the contested seats.

The NDP succeeded at maintaining the regime’s power base but there remain rifts within the ruling party as too many candidates were nominated so excluded NDP candidates protested to have their names added to candidate lists, while others threatened to support the regime’s greatest rival – the Muslim Brotherhood.

Unlike traditional individual candidacy, the Egyptian system allows more than one candidate to win. A ballot is void if the voter does not choose two candidates, so naturally candidates double up in their district and each candidate receives the vote that is given to their partner on the ballot card. The electoral system needs to be amended and become an entirely individual system. MB candidates benefited from this structural system in 2005, and formed alliances in all electoral districts.

This happened at a time when the NDP fragmented its voter base by supporting one candidate over another, causing hopefuls who felt rejected to nominate themselves as independents.

The NDP has divided into the old guard, made up of senior military leaders, and the new guard who are largely young businessman supporting Gamal Mubarak’s ambitions. The network of interests sustaining the NDP is divided along different lines. Is it doomed to collapse like a house of cards?