Cairo: A court ordered the dissolving of Egypt's former ruling party on Saturday, meeting a major demand of the protesters who wanted to ensure that the party that monopolized the country's politics and government for decades is definitively broken after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.
The court verdict against the National Democratic Party appeared to signal that the Egypt's ruling military was trying to move more swiftly to meet protester demands. It came only days after the ousted Mubarak and his sons were put under detention for interrogation on allegations of corruption and responsibility for the killings of protesters by police.
The protest movement had been pushing for both steps for weeks, with little response from the Armed Forces' Supreme Council, the body of top generals that has held power since Mubarak's Feb. 11 fall. In the meantime, tensions grew between the council and the protesters, some of whom accused the generals of protecting the former President.
The tensions peaked a week ago, when troops attacked protesters massed in Cairo's central Tahrir Square in a pre-dawn raid, killing at least one.
The bloodshed raised the specter of an outright confrontation and since then, both sides have appeared to back down. The moves against Mubarak, his family and former party quickly followed.
Activists have feared that despite Mubarak's fall and the arrest of many of its top leaders, the remnants of the National Democratic Party could still try to hold power in the country. In particular, the NDP could still have been a powerful contender in the first post-Mubarak parliament elections due in September.
Protesters set fire to the NDP's headquarters during the 18 days of mass demonstrations that led to Mubarak's removal. The drab but imposing building overlooking the Nile River remains charred, its windows smashed and its walls covered with anti-Mubarak graffiti.
Saturday's verdict came from the Supreme Administrative Court, whose decisions cannot be appealed. The court ordered the party dissolved and its assets and offices handed over to the state. Lawyers had raised a suit demanding its dissolution, accusing the party of corruption.
For years, the NDP held an unbreakable monopoly over Egypt's political life. It consistently held overwhelming majorities in parliament, largely because of widespread vote rigging during elections. Its members controlled the hierarchy of Egypt's vast and powerful bureaucracy.
It also effectively could determine what other parties could be formed, since any new party had to be approved by a body dominated by the NDP. As a result, Egypt's recognized opposition parties are largely weak with little grassroots support.
First Published: Sunday, April 17, 2011, 00:06