What if Gamal becomes president?
There is a general feeling in Egypt that the plan to groom Gamal Mubarak to succeed his father as the next president has virtually entered the stage of implementation rather than being mere speculation. The sentiment grew stronger after President Mubarak’s visit to Washington this past August and following remarks he made in which he did not categorically reject the idea that his son would become his successor.
I think the question is no longer “Will Gamal Mubarak become president?” but rather “What after Gamal becoming a president?” The question concerns the reactions this scenario would generate in Egypt. Will there be violence, unrest and sabotage, like what happened recently in Gabon after Ali Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo as president of the country after a rigged election? Will the masses react to prevent the inheritance scenario? What will be the position of the political forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood? How will Western powers react, especially the United States, if Gamal takes office?
These questions can be answered in principle by considering two factors: Egypt’s historical experience in such situations and the centers of power that will be influential in controlling the reactions.
As for the first question, it cannot be said whether the Egyptian people will reject or accept Gamal’s succession to presidency. The most likely option is silence, much like what happened after the transfer of power from Mohamed Naguib to Gamal Abdel Nasser, from Nasser to Anwar Sadat, and from Sadat to Mubarak. The Egyptian people have never directly rejected a new president.
It could be different this time because the transfer of power will go to a military leader or a charismatic person that has popular influence; instead it will go to the son of the president who has ruled Egypt for three consecutive decades. Therefore, it is difficult to say that the Egyptian people will accept Gamal Mubarak assuming the mantle of presidency quietly and without tension.
Gamal’s succession is likely set off an unprecedented social and religious volcano of anger, not only because many believe that Gamal will be an extension of his father and his failed policies, but also because many files of economic and financial corruption are associated with the NDP and with figures that could be linked to Gamal Mubarak personally.
Therefore, Gamal’s succession could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The Egyptian people have reached an unprecedented stage of suffocation as well as social and political tension, to say nothing of the younger generation that has lost any hope for political change.
While some may bet on the peaceful nature of the Egyptian people, who loathe violence or revolution — and this is a truth — it is also true that over the past three years many Egyptians have demonstrated in a way not seen in the past 30 years.
Second, it can be argued that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most important center of power that will shape social reactions if Gamal takes office. It would be wrong to underestimate the Brotherhood’s social weight or their ability to mobilize the public against Gamal Mubarak, despite recent crackdowns on and severe political repression against the group.
I would not be exaggerating to say that Gamal Mubarak’s succession to power will not take place without brokering a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, allowing them to participate in political life and granting Gamal the popular cover he urgently needs.
The second force is the Salafi wave that is now dominating the media and religious arena in Egypt, penetrating all social segments as well as the upper, middle and lower classes.
Despite being disinterested in politics, this trend is concerned with public issues and will undoubtedly have an influential say in the transfer of power.
While it’s unlikely for it to oppose Gamal’s political ascendancy, the trend will also contain peoples’ reactions and soothe their anger through religious justification.
The third force will be trade and professional syndicates, which will play a major role in controlling the movement of the Egyptian street and organizing its reactions to the issue of inheritance.
In my opinion, it is this force that will be a source of tension and instability in case of Gamal’s succession for two reasons: first, it is the category most affected by the economic policies of Gamal Mubarak and his ministers.
Second, it includes many segments of Egyptian society and has a historic ability to mobilize. It also refuses to accept any inevitable reality.
Who knows, perhaps this player will determine the future of the succession scenario in Egypt.
Khalil Al-Anani is an expert on Political Islam and Deputy Editor of Al Siyassa Al Dawliya journal published by Al-Ahram Foundation.