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Still, these changes have not been enough for some current and former NDP members. As summed up by Mohamed Abdellah, former NDP secretary for Media Affairs, “At first I thought that the NDP could be resurrected again but this proved to be quite impossible.”
Then, in reference to Tunisa’s decision to dissolve its ousted president Zine Abidine Ben Ali’s ruling party (the Constitutional Democratic Rally), Abdellah said, “There is no need to have the NDP dissolved because it has already become dead and beyond repair.”
Unfortunately for Abdellah, that assessment doesn’t ring true to those who say that the NDP is still attempting to creep back into power. In fact, the liberal nationalist Wafd party has accused Ragab of personally conspiring with Mubarak to prepare and organize for a counter-revolution. According to Mona Mokaram of the Wafd party, “We have a deep fear that a counter-revolution will take place.”
For his part, Ragab responded by threatening a lawsuit: “Those who believe that Mubarak will be back to lead the party again are crazy. The fact is that the NDP has many members who still believe in its centrist ideology, which is based on moderation and modernism.”
Ragab seems to also believe that past NDP success had little to do with vote rigging, intimidation and arrest of opposition groups, but rather with individual members’ popularity, wealth and tribal and familial relations. While some may argue with that revisionist view of Egyptian political history, Ragab raised the ante by saying, “These members were by no means negatively affected by the resignation of Mubarak and his henchmen from the party.”
Yet, while many of Egypt’s pro-democracy groups are genuinely alarmed by the prospect of a counter-revolution being launched by the secular discards of the Mubarak regime, they are also keenly aware that Islamist forces from the other side of the political spectrum may be simultaneously working to co-opt the nascent democratic movement.
Like the NDP, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has undergone some cosmetic changes in order to conceal its Islamist roots. With a newly minted creed of equal citizenship regardless of religion or gender, the MB has rebranded itself as the Justice and Freedom Party. Insisting it is committed to bringing about democracy in co-ordination with other political forces in the country, it has opened its party membership to all, including Christians.
Surprisingly, this makeover hasn’t assuaged those pro-democracy activists and Coptics who are reminded that the MB’s 2007 draft for a civil party, which is to be used as a blueprint for its new political party, has banned Christians and women from running for president and calls for a civilian state with a religious source for legislation. The MB, for its part, chalks up any apprehension toward its motives to being misunderstood.
Secular establishment figures, youth coalitions and prominent legal experts who comprise the unwieldy and outnumbered pro-democracy movement all understand too well that their fledgling democratic efforts are poised to be crushed between the anti-democratic aims of both the MB and NDP.
That dismal prospect most recently surfaced in Egypt’s March 18 constitutional referendum when Egyptians voted on a package of amendments to the Egyptian constitution, the passage of which would pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held within six months.
Since the incoming parliament would be charged with drafting the country’s new constitution, pro-democracy forces urged a “no” vote, arguing that as the best organized parties, the NDP and MB would garner the most parliamentary seats and thus dominate the drafting of the new constitution.
However, residual elements of the NDP and MB — once bitter foes — allied themselves in an effort to promote a “yes” vote on the referendum. To the dismay of the pro-democracy movement, this unholy alliance managed to produce an overwhelming voter approval of the reform package.
According to one Egyptian political analyst, the results were “a nightmare” for pro-democracy forces who felt “their revolution being aborted…in what amounted to an Islamist power play.”
Perhaps the election results also signaled something else. As the American sociologist Charles Wright Mills once said, “Every revolution has its counter-revolution — that is the sign the revolution is for real.” Unfortunately, for many Egyptians, the events of the past several weeks have demonstrated the true authenticity of their revolution.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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