Mubarak`s son stands out in Egypt campaign

Mubarak’s son stands out in Egypt campaign
By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) – The son of Egypt’s president has stood out on the campaign trail for legislative elections, further building his image as one of the country’s most influential men and a possible future head of state.

Many opposition figures and analysts now take it as given that Gamal Mubarak aims to lead the Arab world’s most populous country, ruled by President Hosni Mubarak since 1981.

In September, Gamal declined to say if he would stand for president in elections in 2011.

But Gamal, 41, was the guiding force behind the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) campaign for the first presidential election, won easily by his 77-year-old father in September.

He was ever present behind the scenes at presidential events but did not address audiences or the media himself.

At a rally ahead of parliamentary elections which begin on Wednesday, he told party activists they must convince constituents of the benefits of NDP policies widely credited to him and officials close to him.

“Go out into your constituencies and talk. The opposition always claims that the National Democratic Party does not have a vision for political reform,” said Gamal, who was made head of the NDP’s policy-making body in 2002.

“The three years which have passed are the best evidence that the National Democratic Party is moving ahead with political reform,” he said.

Gamal is part of a committee which approved the NDP’s candidates for parliament but is not standing himself.

“Candidacy for parliament is well below his aspirations,” said Mohamed Habib, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. “There is a man who is looking at the presidency of the republic,” he told Reuters.

“He is working towards that and the apparatus of the state are striving towards that,” said Habib, whose officially banned group is widely seen as Egypt’s biggest opposition force.


President Mubarak has long said Egypt is no Syria, where Bashar al-Assad took over as president after his father Hafez died in 2000.

But Mubarak’s failure to appoint a vice-president or name a successor, coupled with Gamal’s rise in the ruling party, has fuelled speculation of a succession by the son, albeit through constitutional channels which tightly control who can stand.

Egypt’s prime minister said in January he saw no problem with Gamal becoming president. He is close to a group of economic reformers in the cabinet.

But while Gamal may enjoy the backing of economic reformers, big business and investors applauding the stock market’s record highs, analysts wonder whether the military would accept the former investment banker as leader.

Egypt’s four presidents since the military overthrew the monarchy in 1952 have all been from the armed forces.

Hassan Nafaa, head of political science at Cairo University, said Mubarak would only be able to secure a power transfer to Gamal if he were to retire and personally manage the handover rather than die in office, like his two predecessors.

Mubarak’s adviser, Osama el-Baz, said in 2002 the president, who is known for thinking long and hard before making decisions, did not plan to rule for life.

A scenario where Mubarak would step down before the end of his current six-year term appears increasingly likely to guarantee a smooth handover, Nafaa said.

“The army will be keen to see the country stabilised so if there is any sign the people will reject Gamal then the army will align with the people,” he said.