The National Democratic Party
There's no question of loyalty here. Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) machine depends on a calibrated pyramid of patronage and corruption that centers on the president.
NDP officials have no doubt been closely watching events in Tunisia, where protesters have made it clear that simply removing Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from the equation is not sufficient. They refused to stop until all traces of Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally party were uprooted; a second wave of protests helped bring down the first post-Ben Ali government because it contained too many old regime faces. The NDP, whose headquarters along the Nile were set ablaze on Friday, Jan. 28, rightly fears the exact same result here if Mubarak does fall.
For better or worse, the party's entire fate is tied to that of Mubarak, and there are no public signs of the party turning against him. The recent mass resignations of the entire top tier of NDP leadership -- a cynical purge at Mubarak's "request" -- and installation of supposedly reformist figures is unlikely to reduce the protesters' visceral animosity toward the party. When protest leader Wael Ghonim was released on Monday, Feb. 7, after 12 days in detention, he was greeted by new NDP chief Hossam Badrawi, the symbol of the party's new reformist stance. Ghonim later said that he told Badrawi the only way he could respect him is if he resigned from the NDP. "I told him, 'I don't want to see the National Democratic Party logo in any street in Egypt. I don't want to see another NDP,'" Ghonim said in a televised interview.
Like the NDP, Egypt's massively wealthy crop of private-sector titans also owes their position, power, and profit to Mubarak's machine. But the economic toll of two weeks of unrest is still being calculated. The stock market lost 16 percent of its value before the government shut it down; it won't reopen until Feb. 13. The Egyptian pound is at a six-year low, and the vital flow of foreign tourists has disappeared at the start of what should be the high season. A report from Crédit Agricole estimated that the standoff was costing Egypt $310 million per day.
If foreign investors start pulling their money out of Egypt, some of the country's oligarchs might begin brainstorming about immediate alternatives -- if they aren't doing that already. They may seek to nudge Mubarak off the stage while preserving the basic architecture of the system that made them wealthy.
One key indicator to watch: some of the wealthiest tycoons, like Naguib Sawiris and Ahmed Bahgat, also own newspapers and television stations that could be used to bolster either the government or the protesters. Bahgat's Dream TV, for example, gave an open forum to the newly released Ghonim on Monday night, and his tearful, sincere, and emotionally raw interview helped galvanize the existing protesters and may have drawn thousands more off the fence.