Mubarak silent on succession
The elderly Egyptian president’s silence on succession, even as a presidential vote approaches, has fuelled doubts over whether Hosni Mubarak has settled on a successor and will secure a smooth transition in his lifetime.
Mubarak’s politician son Gamal is widely tipped as the most likely candidate to lead Egypt once his 81-year-old father leaves office, but Mubarak has given no indication he plans to step down when his term ends in 2011.
The longer Mubarak waits to decide on the succession the more likely his chances are of falling ill or dying in office without securing a replacement – a scenario that could leave a power vacuum as candidates compete for the post.
“I don’t think this would necessarily mean prolonged instability or sudden shock or fighting on the streets, but more that whoever the new president is he will be a lot weaker than Mubarak,” independent political analyst Issandr el-Amrani said.
A lack of clarity ahead of the 2011 presidential vote has sparked a rumbling among investors and political allies eager to avoid instability during a leadership transition. They are also keenly aware Mubarak will be 89 at the end of a sixth term.
“He seems to be in good health,” said Moustapha al-Sayyed, political science professor at Cairo University. “Unless the will of God intervenes, I think if he is alive in 2011 he will seek a sixth term.”
Conjecture on potential contenders to succeed Mubarak has centred on his son. Other possibles include Mubarak’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, or another military candidate.
A less likely candidate is Arab League chief Amr Moussa, an outspoken former foreign minister popular in Egypt for criticism of Israel and US policy in the region. In surprise remarks this month, he did not rule out a presidential run when asked.
Others have tapped Mohamed ElBaradei, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as a possible consensus choice.
It is improbable that an opposition candidate, from the banned Muslim Brotherhood or a liberal party, could succeed Mubarak as legal opposition parties have almost no clout and election rules make a realistic bid by an independent almost impossible.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has said Egypt’s ruling party was not expected to pick a presidential nominee at its annual conference at the weekend. Mubarak, who has no vice president, said in 2006 he would lead Egypt to his last breath.
Nazif told Reuters that Mubarak should not be expected to take any decision to run again two years before the vote.
Realistically, Mubarak could wait until the spring of 2011 before showing any cards. Meanwhile, speculation has grown that he may still be weighing options for a successor.
Gamal, unlike past presidents, has no military background.
“It is not going to be an easy ride for Gamal. He will have a very hard time until he proves himself, and if he doesn’t, there are many challengers around,” said Walid Kazziha, political science professor at the American University in Cairo.
Regardless of who takes over, a new president would likely stick to economic reform measures started by Gamal’s technocrat allies and keep close ties to Washington and peace with Israel.
“The key thing is the economy. It would be a problem if I suspected that … they would nationalise things,” said Mohamed Younes, chairman of private equity firm Concord International. He added such a dramatic shift was “not going to happen”.
Analysts say Mubarak, who denies grooming his son for the presidency, may want to wait on a succession announcement to give Gamal more time to build stronger ties to the military, or to oversee an economic rebound.
On the other hand, if Mubarak thinks a candidate with security experience would be a better choice, he may delay making that public to avoid a rift with his son. – Reuters