Egypt approved the establishment of a party led by a former top official in Hosni Mubarak’s now disbanded party and rejected another set up by an Islamist group, the committee charged with reviewing party applications said in a statement.
Many politicians and activists want members of Mubarak’s dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP) banned from politics to bar them from a parliamentary election in November. The NDP routinely swept to victory in rigged votes during Mubarak’s era.
The committee said it had approved the Ittihad, or Union, party led by Hossam Badrawi, who Mubarak appointed as the NDP’s secretary-general in his final days in office as part of a last ditch attempt to quell protests, Reuters reports.
Badrawi resigned from his post in the NDP few hours before Mubarak was driven from power on February 11 after 30 years.
“This isn’t a reproduction of the NDP. Badrawi has been part of diverse political groups and was an unfavorable figure among the party’s old guard,” political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said.
The NDP acted more like an institution of state than a party. Its members ranged from an old guard who had served with Mubarak for decades to younger business executives who backed the economic liberalisation measures promoted by the president’s son, Gamal, who held a top policy post.
Many Egyptians saw it as a body that served the interests of Egypt’s rich elite at the expense of ordinary citizens. Several top party officials, including the president and his son, are now on trial for corruption and other charges.
“The revolution happened to kick those people out and end their influence. We ask that they are not allowed to return to the political scene so as not to corrupt the coming vote,” said Mohamed el-Beltagy, a senior member of the Freedom and Justice party of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak.
Some 47 new and old parties met Egypt’s ruling military generals on Sunday to call for changes to an election law that they fear will allow former NDP members to return to office.
An alliance led by the Brotherhood called for voting based on lists rather than the mixture of lists and individuals now outlined in the existing law that they fear will give Mubarak’s loyalists an opportunity to run.
Badrawi said in statement carried by Al-Youm Al-Saba newspaper that his party wanted a civil state that respects the separation between executive, judicial and legislative authorities. He said the group had a liberal economic program.
Abdel Fattah said the Brotherhood and other Islamists could use Badrawi’s NDP background to discredit him but he said Badrawi, known as a reformer inside the NDP, might draw support from some groups such as Christians or liberals who worry that organised Islamists could sweep the parliamentary election.
“The main challenge facing Badrawi is to hold a firm grip on the party to prevent corrupt NDP members from returning to the political scene through the party,” Abdel Fattah said.
The parties committee also said it rejected the formation of a party set up by al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, the Islamist group that took up arms against the state in the 1980s and 1990s but whose leaders have since renounced violence. Many spent years in jail.
The committee said it rejected the ‘Construction and Development’ party because it “has violated the parties law by calling for implementation of Islamic sharia law”. It also said one of its founders, Tarek al-Zumar, had been convicted of a criminal offence and so was barred from politics.
“This decision is wrong. It seems the parties committee misunderstood us. We ask for the implementation of Islamic sharia in the long term not now. For now we only want to set the environment for that to happen in future,” Zumar told Reuters.
He said he would appeal the decision.
Zumar and his cousin Abboud were convicted of involvement in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. They were released from jail last March, five weeks after Mubarak was ousted, reflecting the dramatic political change.
Egypt’s parties law prohibits political parties based on religion, just as it did in Mubarak’s time. But some newly formed groups like the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, have said Islam was a “reference” point but that they were civil parties that do not seek to impose Islamic laws.