News / Middle East

Egypt's Mubarak Grooming Son for Presidency?

Multimedia

Audio

Speculation about a post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt intensified this week with news that Mr. Mubarak's 46-year-old son Gamal accompanied his father to Washington for the opening of Middle East peace talks.   This was not the younger Mubarak's first introduction to U.S. officials but it came in a time of growing uncertainty about succession ahead of parliamentary elections this fall and presidential elections in 2011.  

David Ottaway is a Senior Scholar at the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson Center.  He is also a former Washington Post bureau chief in Cairo.  He talked this week with reporter Cecily Hilleary about the significance of Gamal's visit and about some of the issues and contenders in next year's presidential vote.

Ottaway: I think it's significant.  I mean, President Mubarak brought his son last year at about this same time to introduce him to American senior officials.  You know, he continues to promote his son without saying so, and it's clear that he regards his son as the likely heir to "the throne" of Egypt.  And he's been promoting his son slowly for the last eight years


Egyptian Presidential Election 2011

  • By the terms of a 2005 amendment to the Egyptian constitution, only parties established for more than five years with at least five percent representation in parliament can nominate a candidate.
  • Independent candidates can run only if they are endorsed by 250 elected members of Egypt's representative bodies.
  • Presidents are elected for six years with no term limits.
  • Religious parties are banned.

Now, there are scenarios where this plan might not succeed, and that is why President Mubarak has left open the possibility that he'll run again in 2011. 

Hilleary: What are the chances of that?  How's his health holding out?

Ottaway: Well, his health is certainly the number one question.  And I think, aside of his health, the real issue in the last nine months for President Mubarak has been how successful the campaign to promote Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, who has certainly been putting out "feelers" and setting up his own campaign to run for president, how successful his campaign will be.

Egyptian-American academic, political opposition and human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, arrives at Cairo airpor, 04 Aug 2010, despite an outstanding prison sentence against him for defaming Egypt and spending three years in exile
Egyptian-American academic, political opposition and human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, arrives at Cairo airpor, 04 Aug 2010, despite an outstanding prison sentence against him for defaming Egypt and spending three years in exile

Hilleary: Well, he [ElBaradei] has recently surprised observers by aligning himself with the Muslim Brotherhood.  How does this impact things for Mubarak and for ElBaradei?

Ottaway: Well, I think for ElBaradei, it's quite a gamble because the Muslim Brotherhood has been going through a difficult period in which its own conservatives, who are much more Islamic-oriented, have really prevailed within the party.  So, that cannot endear upper-class, secular Egyptians to ElBaradei.

On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most effective, well-organized non-governmental organization in Egypt.  So it's tempting for ElBaradei to seek and want their support.

Hilleary: We've had another political surprise recently - that is, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the human rights advocate and strong Mubarak critic, has now thrown his support or has he? to the Gamal petition?

Ottaway: Well, "has he" is indeed the question, and I think it's a little bit difficult until we get a fuller explanation from Saad of his own behavior in signing a petition in favor of Gamal Mubarak to know exactly what he is up to.   Saad Eddin has been the foremost critic, I would say, among the Egyptian intellectuals, for the concept idea of Mubarak passing on power to his son.   And, in fact, he got into so much trouble in his comments about this that he was thrown in jail by President Mubarak.   So this is quite a turnaround. 

Saad is trying to say, "Well, I'm for anybody who runs, you know, I'm going to sign all petitions, and we want to have a good presidential election with lots of candidates."   And I think that's his argument.  But it's hard for him to overcome the perception, particularly in Egypt, that he is trying to make some kind of deal with Gamal in order to restore his own position and influence in the country and to be able to go back there without fear of arrest. 

Hilleary: So, what's your take on what he has said or done? 

Ottaway: I'm waiting for a fuller explanation from Saad of his decision to do this.  So I'm still a bit agnostic.

Hilleary: Finally today we read a new group of activists are pushing for Omar Suleiman, Egypt's spy chief, to run for presidency.

Ottaway: Suleiman has certainly been in the news as the main alternative to Gamal, particularly if the army and the security services back him.  Now, it's interesting:  Omar Suleiman has been here together with Gamal on this visit, keeping a very low profile.  

But it's interesting to me that Mubarak brought both of the chief contenders as a successor here to Washington, because Suleiman has been pretty close to Gamal Mubarak, and it's not to me because of his age that he's really interested in running to become the successor.   But in Egypt, you never know.

Hilleary: Let's bring it back around to the meetings going on in Washington this week.  Hosni Mubarak is here to help mediate and put pressure on the Palestinians.   What kind of pressure does this put President Obama under vis-à-vis Egypt?

Ottaway: I think Obama's looking to President Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan to make it possible for the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to make the kind of concessions he's likely to have to make in order to get an agreement.   So I think that's the meaning of Mubarak's presence here, as well as the Jordanian King.

Hilleary: What is President Mubarak looking for in return?  Or is he? 

Ottaway: I think he's looking for and getting less pressure from the United States for the kind of democratic process we would like to see unfold in Egypt and which President Bush had really made a big issue in our relationship with Egypt. 

Hilleary: You pointed out in your most recent article, The Arab Tomorrow, which is in the Winter 2010 edition of the Wilson Quarterly, that in pushing for democracy, the United States didn't necessarily get what it wanted.

Ottaway: It certainly didn't, and Mubarak, in fact, refused to come to visit Bush here in Washington throughout the second term of the Bush Administration because he was so mad over the pressure that Bush was putting on him.  
Hilleary:  So do you believe that this was a lesson carried over into the Obama Administration?

Ottaway: I do.  I think Obama has decided that pushing that hard for democracy in Saudi Arabia and Egypt particularly was just counterproductive, particularly if he wanted Mubarak's support for a difficult peace process solution. 

Hilleary: So your ultimate prediction?  Will the U.S. put any more pressure will the U.S. get involved in the Egyptian elections?

Ottaway: Well, I think it depends on how the Egyptian government deals with Mohamed ElBaradei.   If they use the heavy-handed tactics that they used on some of the other contenders for power in the 2005 election, I would think Obama would have to speak out in opposition and criticism.  I think one of the most interesting things to watch is how the Mubarak government deals with Mohamed Elbaradei, who at this point is trying to get a million people to sign a petition that would change the constitution so that he could run for the presidency in 2011. 

Otherwise, I think that with this coming year, particularly when Mubarak is crucial to trying to get some agreement on Palestinian issue[s], that Obama will not say or do much to criticize President Mubarak.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid