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After Mubarak: An NDP Electoral Victory?

February 23, 2011

New presidential and parliamentary elections allow the old elite of Mubarak cronies to use their political experience and vast wealth to dominate the new Parliament, while the officer corps remains a power behind the scenes.

This scenario assumes that the military, under continuing pressure from ongoing protests and public scrutiny by the increasingly free media, pushes forward with democratic reforms and moves to new, free and fair elections. The NDP runs, and wins control of Parliament and forms a government.

It may seem odd to outside observers that after all this effort the NDP would win in free and fair elections, but it is not as improbable as it might appear.

The NDP is the only organization in Egypt with any real political experience, since all other political parties were suppressed or kept down to mere token status. Dozens of new parties are springing up—thirteen by last count—which makes for a very divided opposition.

Even the Muslim Brotherhood, probably the best organized non-state actor in Egypt, when it gained a significant number of seats in the 2005 elections, showed itself as inexperienced and unable to function effectively as an opposition party.

The NDP regime has sought to purge itself by hanging out to dry four of the ministers most hated by the population, and scapegoating the conveniently absent Gamal Mubarak.

There is still solid support for Mubarak among some constituencies in Egypt for whom chaos is worse than dictatorship. This includes both many of the wealthy who profited indirectly from the regime, but also many of the poor who are especially vulnerable to the economic consequences of the uprising, which will not go away quickly.

Moreover, if the post-Soviet revolutions are any guide, nostalgia for the old regime—remembering its ability to provide stability and predictability and downplaying its evils—will set in rapidly even among many who currently are celebrating its fall.

If this happens, the real test of whether Egypt has become a democracy will be how they fare in subsequent elections. The test of a democracy, after all, is whether an electorate can overturn a government through a peaceful electoral process. India did it in 1977 when they threw out Indira Gandhi’s government in spite of the Emergency Laws that allowed her to impose direct rule, censor the media and restrain court challenges. If Egyptians can vote the NDP out as well as in, they will have achieved democracy. If not, an NDP election will have turned into another silent coup.

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