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Egypt’s Mubarak sees no need for vice president
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in remarks published on Wednesday there was no need to appoint a vice president, suggesting he will leave open the post from which both he and his predecessor becam
Thursday, July 13,2006 00:00
by Tom Perry, (Reuters)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in remarks published on Wednesday there was no need to appoint a vice president, suggesting he will leave open the post from which both he and his predecessor became leader.

Analysts and the opposition Muslim Brotherhood said that by not appointing a vice president, 78-year-old Mubarak strengthened the chances of his son, Gamal, becoming leader.

Mubarak, president since 1981, has not said who might succeed him. But he has promoted Gamal, 42, to one of the most senior posts in the ruling party. Analysts say he would be an obvious candidate for president if Mubarak were to step down.

Gamal has said he has neither the intention or desire to be president -- a position with vast powers in Egypt.

Mubarak said in an interview with Massai newspaper it was not obligatory to appoint a vice-president, the post he held under President Anwar Sadat.

"Our experience since the establishment of the republican system does not call to maintain it," Mubarak said.

"If anyone says that I was deputy to President Sadat, well that happened before we moved on the path of democracy," he added. "Frankly, I fear that this post would lead to conflicts and mudslinging which obstruct national work."

Mubarak secured his fifth six-year term as president last year in Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election.

The government billed the election as the centrepiece of democratic reform but the opposition called it a referendum in disguise because of tough conditions on who could stand.

POWER "INHERITANCE"

None of Egypt’s opposition groups currently hold enough seats in parliament and local councils to field a candidate in a presidential election, effectively securing the post for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

Gamal is one of the most influential figures in the party and his profile has become increasingly prominent this year with public appearances and interviews.

Not appointing a vice president would make a Gamal presidency more likely as there would be no challenge from a Mubarak deputy for the leadership, analysts said.

"It wouldn’t have been acceptable for him to appoint Gamal as vice president," said Hala Mustafa, editor of al-Ahram Quarterly Democracy Review. "Indirectly, this (not appointing a vice president) will be in the favour of Gamal," she said.

"He will be the first and the strongest candidate when the time comes," she said.

Opposition groups oppose the idea of a power transfer to Gamal. "This strengthens the inheritance of power scenario," said Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Mohammed Habib.

Analysts had suggested intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, one of Mubarak’s closest aides, as a possible successor. One scenario was that Mubarak would appoint Suleiman, in his mid-60s, as vice president.

But under the constitution, Suleiman would need to become a leading NDP member to be the party’s presidential candidate.

Some analysts argue that Gamal’s supporters would find it impossible to install him if Mubarak were to die in office, and so the president must step down to manage the transfer.

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