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Gamal Mubarak

On 11 February 2011 President Mubark resigned, probably ending Gamal Mubarak's presidential ambitions. On 05 February 2011 the top leadership of the National Democratic party resigned. Those resigning from the party leadership include Mr. Mubarak's son, Gamal Mubarak who had been seen until recently as the heir-apparent to the presidency.

Gamal H. Mubarak, President Hosni Mubarak's son, worked over 11 years in commercial and investment banking, Bank of America, Cairo and London. He is a member of the Board of Arab African International Bank; a Founding Member of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies and the Chairman of the Future Generation Foundation; Future Foundation for Housing, non-profit organizations established to improve business skills of young graduates and professionals and support low income housing in Egypt. He holds a BA in Business Administration and Economics and a MBA from the American University in Cairo.

In power since 1981, Mr. Mubarak had given little indication of what the transition might look like. He had no vice president until a few weeks before resigning. According to Egypt's constitution, the speaker of parliament would assume power for three months if the president died in office. Analysts say a new president would then be selected after complicated negotiations among Egypt's political elite and the powerful military establishment. Who would become president, however, remained a guessing game often played out by journalists and diplomats with little consensus.

According to the constitution President Mubarak can nominate himself for another presidential term beginning in 2011. Prior to late 2010 he had not said if he will run for re-election in 2011, and many wonder if that would even be advisable, as he would be nearly 90 at the end of that term. Three of Egypt's best known international figures, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, Nobel Prize winner Ahmed Zuweil and the U.N. nuclear chief Mohammed ElBaradei, have not responded to supporters' calls to run. That left two other much-discussed possibilities - intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman, and Mr. Mubarak's son, Gamal.

The due process and separation of powers key to any functioning democracy have been stifled in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak assumed the presidency. The so-called emergency powers he renews every three years allow him to arrest political opponents, their family and friends. Some experts believe that President Mubarak's refusal to name a successor or vice president suggests his intention to have his son, Gamal Mubarak, succeed him.

Mubarak's son Gamal was widely seen in Egypt as his father's favored successor. Gamal Mubarak was Policy Secretary of the party. He took the helm of the party's new policy-making committee at the general NDP congress in September 2002. Gamal has been promoting a new way of thinking for the future of the nation. Gamal Mubarak has described how the NDP has often failed to convey a unified party vision. While party members are free to have differences of opinion, Gamal Mubarak has stressed the need for a set of "general convictions" to galvanize party members towards a common goal. This is where the policy secretariat comes in. The committee is mandated with developing a "crystal clear" party platform on a wide range of issues. Positions must then be debated at party congresses - now an annual affair - if they are to be adopted as official party policy.

Gamal Mubarak heads the reform-oriented faction of the NDP, with addresses issues of economic and political reform in Egypt. Gamal Mubarak is believed to have been behind the reform-oriented cabinet which was appointed in July 2004 and has since helped boost economic growth in Egypt, raising it from 4.1% in FY2003/2004 to 7.2% in FY2007/2008.

Speculation about Gamal Mubarak's political ambitions -- ongoing since 2002 -- spiked in April 2006 with the publication of an interview with veteran journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal in the independent Al-Dostour. Heikal reported that informed sources told him of a plan to catalyse Gamal's "inheritance" of the presidency from his father in 2006. According to Heikal -- a close confidante of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser and an analyst whose political observations continue to resonate -- Mubarak wanted to ensure that his son was in power during the father's lifetime. "This is why efforts are being intensified," Heikal said. In early February 2006, Gamal was promoted to the ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP) assistant secretary-general post, which he held in addition to heading the party's Policies Committee, probably the most important organ within the NDP.

In September 2006 Gamal Mubarak hit U.S. ambitions to export Western-style democracy to the region. "We reject these foreign ambitions to erase Arab identity in the framework of what they call the Greater Middle East initiative." Gamal also urged his father's party to consider a proposal to develop nuclear energy, taking a controversial stance as he seeks to position himself regionally as a serious politician. "We will continue using our natural energy resources, but we should conserve these resources for our future generations. The whole world is looking at alternative energy - so should Egypt - including nuclear," Gamal Mubarak told party members. "We will not accept initiatives made abroad," said the 42-year-old politician. "Egypt is a big country and plays a leading role and will continue to do that."

On 02 May 2007, during an interview with the orbit satellite tv channel, when Gamal stated that, "I do not have the intention and ambition to run for president ... Whatever the party says does not matter. I am not looking for any executive post." Such coy demurrals ring hollow in the face of his increasingly robust role within the NDP (far exceeding that of his counterparts in the party hierarchy), his apparently central role in creating new legislation, and his tours to various governorates featuring ministerial entourages. It is hard to argue that gamal is not being groomed for the presidency.

While he certainly is a central figure in the ruling party, he is not a candidate to the presidency. As a representative of the people, Gamal is not very credible. The small democratic and the large Islamic opposition in Egypt reject the idea of him succeeding his father. Demands for more democracy in Cairo are therefore directed at him. The mixture of tough anti -Americanism and social promises, with which Ahmadinejad came to power, is also working in Egypt.

The intra-family politics of a Gamal succession bid are unclear. Elder son Alaa', well-known to have extensive business interests (many of which are privately criticized as corrupt and exploitative) keeps a low public profile and has never shown any inclination to wade into the political arena. A rare sighting of Alaa' on national TV took place during the final game of the Africa Cup championship in late February 2006, when he was photographed in the stadium's VIP section with Gamal, cheering on Egypt to its 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast.

The President had been careful not to indicate any overt support for Gamal, was rarely photographed with him, and had on several occasions angrily denied to the media that there is any plan for his younger son to succeed him. While some have speculated that the President was ambivalent about Gamal's political future, he had not stood in the way of the rise of his son and his allies through the ranks of the ruling NDP, or obstructed his increased public profile. Moreover, the President shuffled his cabinet and replaced "old guard" elements with younger technocrats linked to Gamal. While there was little public evidence, commonly accepted wisdom in Cairo was that First Lady Suzanne Mubarak is Gamal's most ardent political patron. Unlike the President, the First Lady was often photographed at public events with Gamal, frequently in connection with social issues. Her power and influence, many argue, were keys to Gamal's viability.

"He is repackaging himself - if he is not interested, why is he going to all this trouble?" prominent liberal dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim mused to a western journalist. Former Nasser advisor and influential writer Mohamed Hassanein Heikal made opposition to Gamal's succession a staple of his regular newspaper columns in the independent press. The notion that Gamal might succeed his father, Heikal has written, was an affront to Egypt's republican principles. Abdel Halim Qandil, editor of the Nasserist weekly Al-Araby (and a co-founder of the Kifaya protest movement), was a pioneer of the anti-Gamal movement, authoring in 2003 a series of scathing editorials against the alleged plot to install Gamal and underlining the public's "universal rejection" of the notion. These editorials, many believe, were linked to Qandil's brief 2004 abduction and beating by still unidentified thugs, who left him bruised and naked on the Suez desert highway.

Presidential son Gamal Mubarak's power base was centered in the business community, not with the military, and the military could be a key stumbling block for a Gamal candidacy. Each of Egypt's four presidents since 1952 arose from the officer corps, and the military has historically been the ultimate guarantor of the president's rule. Gamal did not serve as a military officer, and it is believed he did not complete his compulsory service, even "on paper". Many observers opine that timing is the crucial factor for a potential Gamal presidency - his power base is his father, and so while he could conceivably be installed prior to Mubarak's death, the task would become far more difficult, although not insurmountable, once the pharaoh has departed the scene, and personal loyalties to him are in the past.

If Hosni Mubarak had died in office, the military might have seized power rather than allow Gamal to succeed his father. However, analysts agreed that the military would allow Gamal to take power through an election if President Mubarak blessed the process and effectively gave Gamal the reigns of power. After Gamal became active in the NDP in 2002, the regime empowered the reformers in the 2004 cabinet to begin privatization efforts that buttressed the wealthy businessmen close to Gamal. The regime's goal was to create a business-centered power base for Gamal in the NDP to compensate for his lack of military credentials. A necessary corollary to this strategy was for the regime to weaken the military's economic and political power so that it cannot block Gamal's path to the presidency.

The regime, aware of the critical role the MOD can play in presidential succession, may well have been trying to co-opt the military through patronage into accepting Gamal's path to the presidency. There was some speculation that senior military officers would support Gamal if Mubarak resigned and installed him in the presidency, as it is difficult to imagine opposition from these officers who depend on the president and defense minister for their jobs and material perks. In a messier succession scenario, however, it became more difficult to predict the military's actions. While mid-level officers did not necessarily share their superiors' fealty to the regime, the military's built-in firewalls and communication breaks made it unlikely that these officers could independently install a new leader.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:38:32 ZULU