• February 24, 2007

Heikal on Gamal Mubarak

A Western journalist who recently lunched with Mohamed Hassanein Heikal asked him about presidential succesion in Egypt, and what chances Jimmi had regarding inheriting the country’s rule from his dady:

[Heikal] was adamant that Gamal Mubarak would not be the next president: “Everyone hates him!” he exclaimed at one point. He also talked at length about the extent to which President Mubarak has insulated and isolated himself from ordinary Egyptians and has built an impermeable bubble of courtiers and yes-men around himself.
One of the other lunch guests remarked on the fact that that morning, Mubarak had presented the Egyptian “Order of Merit”, one of the country’s highest honors, on the outgoing head of US Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid. “Outrageous! That just proves how isolated Mubarak has become!” was Heikal’s reaction.

The same evening, the journalist was…

once again generously hosted, this time by Ali Dessouki and his wife Eglal. Ali is a recent Minister for Youth and Sports. He and another of the dinner guests, Muhammad Kamel, are both on the NDP committee that’s working on political reform. We had a very lovely dinner in an incredibly posh new sporting- and social club out to the southeast of the city, and a conversation that was often very lively. Ali grew very impassioned as he explained to me how the regime felt it really had to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood these days, with an argument along the lines of “We gave them an inch [of liberalization] and they tried to take a mile, so we really had no alternative but to push back against them very hard.” On that basis he was adamant about justifying, for example, the recent re-arrest of some dozens of MB activists immediately after they had just been freed on the orders of a judge…