- Life Style
Mohammad Ragab, the National Democratic Party's new secretary general and sucessor of Hossam Badrawy, is tasked with reviving and leading deposed President Hosni Mubarak's party forward in the face of overwhelming popular anger and resentment.
In one of the National Democratic Party's offices, Al-Masry Al-Youm met with Ragab and other members of the NDP's new political leadership including Mohammad Abdellah, Maged El-Sherbiny, Mohammad Kamal, and Mohammad Hayba. Each of them stressed that he is undergoing the most difficult political task in his life, after the resignation of Mubarak, who was NDP president, and the fall of all the party's other prominent figures.
During the interview Ragab periodically fielded calls from NDP members asking about others who had resigned and whether they would be allowed to continue serving the party.
Al-Masry: Where does the National Democratic Party stand now on the ground?
Ragab: The party is experiencing the most difficult situation in its political life as it received many blows in few days. But I believe that the National Democratic Party is based on a coherent, large number of loyal members who have good intentions and behaviors.
Al-Masry: But the image people have now is that the party collapsed or on the verge of collapse.
Ragab: That is totally untrue, and the evidence is what you have just seen in the office. The party's political bureau members hold meetings here and in the headquarters in other governorates.
Al-Masry: But we hear about many resignations of many members, including NDP deputies in the People's Assembly and Shura Council and leaders in other governorates?
Ragab: I swear to you that what you read in some newspapers about the number of resignations is much larger than the real number.
Al-Masry: How many members have resigned thus far?
Ragab: I don't know until now. I asked for an inventory that includes all governorates, but I haven't received the report yet.
Al-Masry: In your opinion, why did they resign?
Ragab: For many reasons: anger, despair and shock.
Al-Masry: What about profiteers?
Ragab: Nearly all profiteers resigned.
Al-Masry: Can you name some of them?
Ragab: I don't want to remember them. But I want to make clear that any party that includes vast numbers of members includes profiteers and members who have various visions and directions from extreme right to extreme left.
Al-Masry: And amid all these directions who controlled the party?
Ragab: The ruling regime controlled the party according to its political vision. Affiliation to the ruling regime earned the party power.
Al-Masry: What power? The party collapsed within a few days.
Ragab: That is a natural consequence. The ruling party always pays the price when the ruling regime falls.
Al-Masry: Did affiliation to the ruling regime please you?
Ragab: What harmed the NDP the most was forming successive governments from the party members.
Al-Masry: How did you receive the news of Hossam Badrawy's resignation?
Ragab: I was so unhappy with the news because he had many ideas that could help the party through the crisis.
Al-Masry: Will you try to urge him to return?
Ragab: I think that is difficult now, especially after he announced his resignation on air on one of the TV channels. But generally, the party will always welcome the return of any member.
Al-Masry: Did you ever think of resigning from the party?
Ragab: No way. I joined the party out of conviction and I never used my membership to profiteer membership.
Al-Masry: How do you see the future of the position you currently hold, the NDP secretary general?
Ragab: My destiny brought me to the position. It is a great responsibility amid current circumstances.
Al-Masry: What are your priorities now?
Ragab: First, second and third, it is rebuilding the party.
Al-Masry: Is the time until parliamentary or presidential elections enough for that?
Ragab: The party is still the largest among all Egyptian political parties. Even amid current circumstances, we can run for any elections and achieve good results.
Al-Masry: Can you win the majority of seats?
Ragab: By exerting great effort we can win, but not the sweeping provocative majority.
Al-Masrry: Provocative for whom?
Ragab: For both the public and the political parties.
Al-Masry: Did excluding opposition powers from the previous parliamentary elections provoke you?
Ragab: It provoked all Egyptians. But what was really more provocative for me was excluding patriotic honorable figures from the NDP like Hamdy al-Tahan and Dr. Sharif Omar.
Al-Masry: Who excluded them?
Ragab: The wrong method by which members were selected and the centrality of power in the hands of some individuals.
Al-Masry: Do you suspect a kind of schadenfreude?
Ragab: Schadenfreude and hatred.
Al-Masry: What caused such feelings?
Ragab: As I said before, the wrong policies of the successive NDP governments and some controversial figures monopolizing the political arena for many years.
Al-Masry: We heard that you will change the name of the party?
Ragab: We received some suggestions concerning the issue but it is still being discussed.
Al-Masry: What do you think of 25 January revolution?
Ragab: Youth sparked the revolution but it soon turned into a popular revolution and accomplished what no other political powers could accomplish. I announced my support for the demands of the revolution since the very beginning because no one can deny the claims for democracy and social justice.
Al-Masry: Why didn't the former ruling regime respond quickly to these demands?
Ragab: The former ruling regime had a great deal of indifference, arrogance and vanity that prevented them from responding to people's demands.
Al-Masry: Why, in your opinion?
Ragab: Absolute power causes arrogance and I repeat: absolute power causes absolute corruption.
Al-Masry: If this was the situation of the ruling regime, where was the situation of the NDP?
Ragab: The party was surprised by the accelerated events, and leaders couldn't give orders.
Al-Masry: Is that a natural behavior?
Ragab: It is natural because the party was used to receiving orders and it never took the lead.
Al-Masry: Some leaders in the NDP took lead of Wednesday's bloody combat in Tahrir Square or camel battle as it has been called, what do you think of this?
Ragab: It wasn't according to orders from party leaders. It was according to orders from some individuals.
Al-Masry: Some people said that it was a plot against President Hosni Mubarak?
Ragab: I can't say that it was intended, as I can't also say that burning the NDP headquarters was intended.
Al-Masry: How did you receive the news of Mubarak's resignation?
Ragab: Well, I was touched, but at the same time I think that the decision saved Egypt from a serious crisis and provided space for freedom.
Al-Masry: Will you run for the coming presidential elections?
Ragab: It is too early to answer such a question.
Al-Masry: Before 25 January, were you going to elect Gamal Mubarak?
Ragab: There were no direct orders concerning the issue, but I could see some arrangements to make Gamal Hosni Mubarak's successor.
Al-Masry: What arrangements?
Ragab: Excuse me but I don't want to answer this question
Al-Masry: Why didn't we hear about the NDP political bureau's opinion on the constitutional amendments?
Ragab: We will announce our opinion after the committee on constitutional amendments finalizes the recommendations.
Al-Masry: Which government system do you prefer in Egypt?
Ragab: I believe that the semi-presidential system, as in France, is the best system because executive power is divided between the president and the government.
Al-Masry: What about a parliamentary system, some voices prefer it?
Ragab: I think that this system will not be suitable in the coming period because we can't switch from a system that gave the president absolute powers to a system that deprives the president of all powers.