What future for Gamal?

I meant to blog this a few days ago,but our friend Josh Stacher has been peddling his theories about Gamal Mubarak to the Washington Post:

The son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and a group of close associates have moved into key political positions that put the younger man in line to succeed his aging father at a time when the government has taken steps to block opposition rivals from challenging the heir apparent.

Last month, Gamal Mubarak rose in the hierarchy of the governing National Democratic Party, whose grass-roots organization underpins his father's rule. He was named one of three NDP deputy secretaries general, and 20 of his associates took other high-ranking posts in the party. Mubarak had served as head of the party's policies committee, which helped fashion economic reforms.

Mubarak and his backers displaced some, but not all, of the veteran NDP activists known collectively as the old guard. Political observers saw in the move a gradual shift toward putting the NDP at the service of the president's son.

"Who can deny this is anything but a vehicle for succession?" said Hala Mustafa, an analyst at the government-financed al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

With the opposition on the defensive, there seems to be nothing blocking Mubarak's path to the presidency. "I don't see anyone who can stop him," said Joshua Stracher, a researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who studies the Arab Middle East.
The least the Post could have done is get his name spelt right. Ah, we miss him. As for Hala Mustafa, I hear she just quit the NDP right after Osama Ghazali Al Harb did. Now you have the defections of two prominent liberal intellectual types.

Josh has for a long time now been inclined to think that all the evidence points to a Gamal Mubarak takeover, especially if you look at Egypt's institutions (notably the NDP) and the role he plays in them. After all, Gamal is the logical candidate for the NDP should Hosni step down or disappear. This makes sense.

Yet I've always been Gamal-skeptic for three reasons: a) he does not seem to have the intellectual, political or charismatic caliber to take over (which doesn't mean he won't), b) he is risky choice to secure the Mubarak legacy and protect the interests that have backed and benefited from the Mubarak era, c) there is an instinctive rejection of the idea of inheritance of power among so many Egyptians, including in the highest ranks of the military, that his takeover would be doomed to be fragile and contested. Although power is relatively concentrated in the current regime, this is because Hosni Mubarak has been at the helm for 25 years. A new president, even from the same family, is bound to be less powerful (see Bashar Al Assad in Syria). The interests that back the regime, however, are much more diffuse and open to courtship. Why would a majority of these interests or the islands of power that exists in the military, security services, the business world and elsewhere take the risk of an inherently problematic successor? I see it as much more likely that whoever comes in is a consensus figure whose first action is to renege on the Mubarak years, promise reform and perhaps even call for a type of truth-and-reconciliation commission that we've seen elsewhere.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.