News / Middle East

Egyptians Ponder if 2011 Offers Chance for Change

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (file photo)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (file photo)

Multimedia

Egypt is set to hold presidential elections toward the end of 2011, but so far no one has officially entered the race.  Aides say President Hosni Mubarak will seek a sixth six-year term, but the spotlight is also on his son, Gamal, a rising star in the ruling National Democratic Party widely seen as being groomed for the post.   

Elections for Egypt's parliament in 2010 have left many here with a profound sense that the National Democratic Party is here to stay, no matter what.   After voting roundly condemned by human rights and electoral groups as riddled with fraud, the outcome has left the NDP with almost complete legislative control, a power critical to setting the terms of the presidential race.  

Speculation is strong that President Mubarak, 82, and with health problems, may be preparing the way for son Gamal, a 47-year-old former London investment banker, to come to power.   On the streets, such a scenario is ridiculed as "hereditary democracy," the kind perceived in such nearby states as Syria, where President Bashar al Assad came to power after the death of his father.

But the dynamics may be different in Egypt.  Media publisher Hisham Kassem says the military and security backbone of the state is committed to a system, not a family or clan, particularly not to the man Kassem refers to by his Westernized nickname.   

"If anybody thinks the generals, once Mubarak senior is gone, the generals are going to sit there and smile and, you know, let little Jimmy become the next president, this is really unrealistic," said Kassem.

Kassem is among those who believe any succession to President Mubarak could be by another general, most likely General Omar Suleiman, Egypt's director of intelligence.  Suleiman, who heads one of the more pervasive security services in the Arab world, is also known for his diplomatic efforts including, so far in vain, to reconcile the bitterly split Palestinians.

Another possible contender is opposition figure and former U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed elBaradei.  The co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has said he will run if the constitution is amended - an unlikely scenario given the domination of the NDP.   

Even elBaradei's plan to collect signatures from the public to demand change could prove daunting, in part because they can be ignored if not backed up by public demonstrations, a challenge under Egypt's strict security laws and their consequences.  

"The biggest demonstration now in Egypt doesn't exceed 3000 people," said Kassem..  So, it's not the street with him.  They are collecting signatures.  Collecting signatures is one thing, and getting people to go out on the street is another.  The bulk of people who are signing will not go out in a demo."

A question being asked repeatedly among opposition movements is what, if any, is the tipping point for a real change in government, away from the one they argue has led the region's once-major power into stagnancy.

Independent political activist Ahmed Salah is among those who believe the situation is not as stable as many in the West believe, but says grass roots political change is still a long way off.  

"Everything is deteriorating constantly and people are building more and more pressure that would come out in waves of violence, that would be sectarian, or football, because people do not put this violence yet in something political because they are under a combination of despair and fear," said Salah. "They are so afraid because they do anything political they go to hell."

That hell, for Salah and thousands of others of opposition figures, is the well-documented abuses suffered by those detained in Egypt's prison system.

For others, like publisher Kassem, the tipping point would be the government's mishandling of a massive natural disaster or an economic meltdown.   But short of that, he thinks the chances are good that whoever is in power at the end of 2011, the situation in Egypt will likely remain very much the same.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs