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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora