Mubarak’s hold on power weakening?
|Saturday, July 11,2009 04:52|
|By Helena Cobban|
There have been several reports in both the Arab and Israeli media in recent days that Egypt"s aging, 28-year president Hosni Mubarak may be weakening his long-clenched hold on power.
Given Egypt"s pivotal role in all the current diplomacy-- over Fateh-Hamas reconciliation; Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange; and consolidation of the Gaza ceasefire-- a weakening of Mubarak"s grip could have serious consequences.
At the very least, if these reports are widely believed within Egypt"s often delphically closed political elite, they could easily be sharpening the struggle to succeed the 81-year-old Mubarak.
This struggle is generally judged to pit his son Gamal against the security boss, Omar Suleiman... Who also (not coincidentally) happens to be the chief point-man on all those negotiations defined above.
So what is the status of these latest reports?
I am having a hard time finding out exactly. Al-Bawaba website reports that,
Saudi press reports Monday said that that during his recent trip to Jeddah, President Mubarak, 81, notified King Abdullah of his intention to step down soon as president following the upcoming parliamentary election. He also reportedly anticipates moving the presidential election forward to 2009 or 2010, instead of the scheduled 2011.
And the Israeli daily Ma"ariv reported either yesterday or today that,
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not complete his current presidential term, but will rather retire beforehand and will try to transfer power to his son Gamal. This is the prevalent opinion among intelligence officials in Israel, which they voiced in discussions held recently on the future of the regime in Cairo.
Now sadly I cannot yet get better sourcing/links for either of these reports. The English rendering of the Ma"ariv one was taken from something called "Israel News Today", a private news service that I don"t think is available on-line.
(If anyone can contribute links to any of the originals of these articles, that would be great.)
Interestingly both that report and the Bawaba one linked Mubarak"s present weakness to the recent death of his beloved grandson. Be that as it may...
Anyway, in terms of the political effects of a pre-succession struggle that may already have started, I would note the security forces" recent round-up of yet another tranche of high-level Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
For what it"s worth, when I was in Cairo in February, some well-informed Egyptian friends said they had concluded that powerful trends within the MB there were betting on a Gamal succession.
.... Anyway, Egypt is obviously not the only heavyweight US ally in the Arab world that is facing imminent succession challenges. So is Saudi Arabia.
Thus, many things about the political structure of the region that the US political elite has taken for granted over the past 15-20 years might well be about to thrown into question.
For the sake of the peoples of both countries, my deepest hope is that these succession struggles are not violent or too disruptive, and that they can lead in both countries to the emergence of regimes that are much more responsive to the real needs of their citizens.