There has been increasing talk about excluding former members of the now-disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP) from political life, with some saying they should be prevented from participation in upcoming elections. Meanwhile, others say only certain members of the NDP should be targeted.
Political exclusion is one of the most dangerous issues that face societies undergoing democratic transformation. Even though Eastern European countries excluded several leaders of formerly ruling communist parties and Latin American countries brought military leaders to trial for torture and murder crimes, successful experiments with political exclusion in emerging democracies was not haphazard. In such cases, only leaders proven to have been directly involved in corruption were excluded.
In the example of Iraq, where the country plunged into civil war after the Ba’ath Party was completely rooted out needs to be considered. In countries that made a successful transition to democracy, specific criteria were invariably established for political exclusion to forestall attempts at settling accounts with political opponents, like the case in Iraq. The scenario in Iraq could potentially be repeated in any other country where there are no sufficient legal or political precautions to prevent the process of political exclusion from turning into a tool to exact revenge on the basis of personal grievances.
In failed cases, accusations of belonging to the fallen regime or the counter-revolution have been used as ready-made charges to bring down enemies.
Egypt possesses a golden opportunity to pass this stage if it implements the process of political exclusion carefully, particularly since change in Egypt came through a popular protest rather than a foreign invasion or a military coup. Additionally, the uprising brought down the regime, but not the state, unlike traditional revolutions which broke out over the past 40 years.
Egypt needs a process of political exclusion that will only screen out those who are currently detained pending investigations or have been indicted for their involvement in rigging elections and corrupting political life. Former MPs who gained their membership in either house of parliament through fixing election results should also be banned from political activity.
Those whose membership of the NDP is only a hereditary affair, passed on to them by their parents and grandparents, should not be excluded from politics. They are victims of successive Egyptian regimes, rather than makers of their failed policies.
Egyptians must be proud that for the first time since Mubarak took power they are bringing to justice corrupt moguls such as steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz and other similarly corrupt figures. At the same time, Egyptians should not hold other members of the former regime – who may have made minor mistakes themselves – accountable for the much larger mistakes of the leaders.
Translated from the Arabic Edition