News / Middle East

Hosni Mubarak Brought Stability to Egypt, At a Price

Egyp't President Hosni Mubarak speaking on television (file photo)
Egyp't President Hosni Mubarak speaking on television (file photo)

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Jane Friedman

After a speech Thursday in which President Hosni Mubarak said he would stay as President, anti-government demonstrators ramped up their protests, surrounding government buildings in Cairo and elsewhere.  On Friday, tension continued to mount. In the evening Cairo time, Vice President Omar Suleiman delivered the news the protesters had been waiting for.  Suleiman announced President Mubarak had stepped down.

Hosni Mubarak's presidency was born during one of the most terrifying events in Egypt's history:  the assassination of then President Anwar Sadat, at a military parade in 1981.  Mr. Hosni Mubarak was vice president and escaped unscathed.  The assassins were Islamic extremists in the army.

"I was in the stands when Sadat was assassinated, watched Mubarak get out from a pile of chairs, shake the dirt off his hat and was totally stunned by what had just happened," recalled David Ottaway who was Washington Post Bureau Chief in Cairo at the time.

Mr. Mubarak was sworn in as president eight days later. Ottaway describes him as stubborn and says he never really seemed interested in building a relationship with foreign media.

"He was always taciturn," said Ottaway.  "His answers were somewhat cryptic and you quite didn't know what he meant when he spoke. He offered no real vision other than stability for his country."

Fast forward 30 years.   For most of those years Egypt was stable.  Cairo played an important role in maintaining an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty that was unpopular with Egyptians and other Arab countries.  

Egypt was eventually accepted back in the Arab fold.  The Mubarak government worked to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  It was a close ally of the United States.  

But many say stability came at a high price.  Prominent voices were imprisoned for criticizing Mr. Mubarak.  Despite heavy security, the president was the target of several assassination attempts.  

In the most recent parliamentary elections, the president's National Democratic Party crushed the opposition amid credible allegations of voter intimidation and vote rigging.  Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most popular opposition movement, faced constant arrest and extended detentions.  

Recently, Mr. Mubarak's apparent grooming of his son Gamal as his successor drew resentment from average Egyptians. And economic reforms widened the gap between rich and poor, according to Ottaway, now at the Woodrow Wilson Center.   

"Economically, the reforms they began in 2004 produced tremendous results because the GDP of Egypt more than doubled in four years between 2004 and 2008," Ottaway noted.  "So the economy was booming, but the people at the bottom were not benefitting from the economic boom. That's the background to the turmoil taking place now."

Then came Tunisia, and the revolt there.  Egyptians wondered why they couldn't do the same.

The protests began January 25 and expanded across the country, igniting labor protests and strikes.  Mr. Mubarak's naming Omar Suleiman as vice president failed to calm the protesters.  Entrenched in Tahrir Square, they demanded he resign.  On February 11, he stepped down.

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

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid