Egypt president’s son dodges questions on inheriting power

Egypt president’s son dodges questions on inheriting power

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak”s son Gamal on Monday deflected a renewed spate of questioning on whether he would eventually take over the reins of power from his father.

Asked at the ruling National Democratic Party”s (NDP) annual conference about the prospects of inheriting the presidency, Gamal Mubarak told journalists he was focused solely on the parliamentary polls in three years time.

“I”m trying to be creative, I”ll refer you to my previous responses,” he said. “I”m focused, I have a mandate, I have a responsibility and we have a target which is the election in 2010.”

Rumours abounded ahead of the NDP conference, which opened on Saturday, that efforts would be made to position Gamal to take over from his father.

While no explicit moves have been made and Gamal himself has repeatedly said he has no ambition to succeed his father, NDP members on Saturday voted to create a “higher committee” that could put him a step closer to the presidency.

The body will nominate the party”s next presidential candidate and incorporates the influential policies secretariat which Gamal heads.

The NDP previously had no higher committee and could have only put President Mubarak forward for the next presidential elections in 2011.

“I am secretary general of the (NDP”s) policies secretariat,” Gamal continued when asked about his ambitions several times and in different languages.

“My role is to draw up future policies and I will continue in my role as head of the policies secretariat.”

The NDP on Monday re-elected party stalwart Safwat al-Sherif as its secretary general, the veteran member Sherif told the official MENA news agency, ending speculation that Gamal Mubarak could have taken that post.

Sherif who entered politics in the 1960s, was elected secretary general in 2002. He also holds the post of speaker of parliament”s upper house, the Shura Council.

Hosni Mubarak, who turns 80 next year and has ruled his country for more than a quarter of a century, has always denied any ambition to start a presidential dynasty like that of fellow Arab state Syria where President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father Hafez on his death in 2000.

But Gamal”s meteoric rise through NDP ranks since his entry into politics in 1995 has prompted allegations by the opposition that he is being prepared for succession.

Some 6,700 NDP delegates gathered in Cairo for their ninth general conference, ending on Tuesday, which saw no major power reshuffle or gave any indication of how the party would look once Mubarak is no longer in office.

Mubarak himself was elected chairman on Saturday. His leadership was unchallenged despite the post being put to a vote for the first time since he took office in 1981.

This year”s conference has focused on social issues amid growing concern that the liberal reforms championed by the Western-leaning regime have done little to address the needs of the 44 percent of Egyptians who live on less than two dollars a day, according to World Bank figures.

Government ministers sought to reassure delegates that the benefits of economic liberalisation would eventually trickle down to the poor.

However, Egypt has seen a rising tide of industrial unrest in recent months, with textile workers and tax collectors striking over pay amid rampant inflation and a sharp rise in the cost of living while state subsidies dwindle.