After Mubarak?

After Mubarak?

 At times Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has seemed a little like the Queen Mother. Amid persistent reports of her imminent demise, she just went on and on. And on. So it is with the man who has led Egypt for 29 years. But, as Mel Brooks said, ‘If Shaw and Einstein couldn’t cheat death, what chance have I got? Practically none’ The chances of Mr Mubarak surviving appear lower than those of Brooks. And so, after the President again postponed a meeting with Binyamin Netanyahu amid rumours of ill health, the question is asked; What will Egypt look like after Mubarak?

The Egyptian elite are nervous about instability in the wake of the President’s demise which explains why officials are doing all they can to quash rumours about his health. Nevertheless, it is possible he has cancer of the esophagus, and it is certain he has had treatment for a serious condition in Germany this year.But why the anxiety? It is because the 82 year old President sits at the top of a society simmering with resentment at the levels of poverty, unemployment and corruption and there is growing support for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement. Mubarak was vice President in 1981 when President Sadat was assasinated. One of his first acts was to impose a state of emergency. It is still in place, albeit slightly relaxed.

According to the constitution, when Mubarak dies the Vice President steps up to fill the vacuum until a new President can be elected. The flaw in this plan is that Mubarak has never appointed a deputy. So, according to the constitution, in that event, the Prime Minister assumes leadership.

Here’s where things become simultaneously murky and clear. Murky insofar as the political machine appears to be manoeuvring Mubarak’s son, Gamal, into a position of greater power. Upon the father’s death, the son might become Prime Minister, or, Vice President. At the same time quiet promises would be made to the military to keep them sweet. Depending on the position, power then shifts towards the Prime Ministership (See Russia’s Putin for details on how to do this) or, after a year as deputy, the son moves up to become President. What is clear is that Mubarak wants his son in charge,(see most Arab leaders for more on this)

So far – so internal politics for the ruling National Democratic Party; but it’s possible the Egyptian public won’t wear it, or indeed even the party itself might want a say in the future of the country.

Egypt is the Arab world most populous country, 80 million and growing. It borders Israel and Gaza, it houses the Suez Canal and the Nile, and it has a population which, having seen the failure of Nasser’s nationalism and the sham democracy of Mubarak, might look to political Islam for solutions to its problems.