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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid