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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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