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Egyptian Democracy Doesn’t Need Gamal Mubarak
Egyptian Democracy Doesn’t Need Gamal Mubarak
In a recent article for the Foreign Policy Middle East Channel, Tarek Masoud makes the provocative claim that a rigged succession from President Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal may in fact be “the best hope for Egyptian democracy.”
Thursday, October 7,2010 00:26
by Stephen McInerney Democracy Arsenal

In a recent article for the Foreign Policy Middle East Channel, Tarek Masoud makes the provocative claim that a rigged succession from President Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal may in fact be “the best hope for Egyptian democracy.”  Masoud makes some compelling points, but his overall argument overreaches.  The “best hope for Egyptian democracy” lies not with the president’s son, but with opposition demands for political reforms that empower the Egyptian people.

First, Masoud distorts the position of those opposing an inherited succession from father to son, declaring that “Egypt's opposition forces and Western advocates of democracy promotion all seem to agree on one thing: Gamal Mubarak should not be allowed to succeed his father Hosni Mubarak as President of Egypt.”  To be clear, no one has argued that Gamal should “not be allowed” to succeed his father as president – on the contrary, the Egyptian opposition would welcome an open process in which Gamal were to run against other candidates in a free election. 

Secondly, Masoud suggests that a Gamal Mubarak presidency would set the stage for a rising opposition to challenge him in the future.  This recalls hopes that surfaced ten years ago in Syria, that the younger, Western-educated Bashar al-Assad would be a weak ruler more susceptible than his father to pressure from Syria’s opposition.  A lesson from the younger Assad’s presidency and from similar father-to-son transitions in Jordan and Morocco is that these perceived openings often prove elusive. 

Masoud counters that if Gamal Mubarak were to come to power in 2011 through an (albeit rigged) “contested” election [the quotes are his], his fate would be bound to uncertain elections in the years ahead.  However, regularly contested - but rigged - elections have failed to weaken the grip of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen or Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria.  Gamal’s lack of legitimacy and more tenuous hold on power could just as likely lead him to use the Egyptian security apparatus to consolidate his control even more aggressively than his father. 


Masoud goes on to argue that a Gamal Mubarak presidency should be welcomed as a less dreadful alternative to a military coup, an additional term for President Hosni Mubarak, or an orchestrated handover to a military or intel chief like Omar Suleiman.  Here, Masoud too easily dismisses any other, more favorable paths for Egypt’s presidential succession and its 2011 election, representing quite a reversal in recent months.  In May, Masoud asserted that Egypt’s “best hope for change is for its citizens to storm the ballot box, and ElBaradei, with his reputation for courage and probity, might be just the man to lead them.” 

The timing of this change in position is surprising.  In recent weeks, ElBaradei has drawn attention for escalating his fight against the Mubarak regime through a series of increasingly defiant speeches and statements promising large-scale civil disobedience if reform demands are ignored.  ElBaradei’s seven demands for reform have gained approximately 900,000 signatures (as compared with only 50,000 collected in support of Gamal Mubarak’s candidacy), with the majority collected by the Muslim Brotherhood.  This seems to have demonstrated increased opposition coordination, particularly between the Brotherhood and ElBaradei’s National Association for Change.      

In addition, while Masoud now focuses on internal opposition dissent, such divides are by no means limited to Egypt’s opposition.  Speculation over presidential succession has recently exposed clear rifts within the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).  Four NDP members of parliament drew attention by refusing to sign a petition in support of Gamal Mubarak’s presidential candidacy.  After Ibrahim Kamel of the NDP’s General Secretariat described Gamal Mubarak as “the only NDP candidate,” should his father choose not to run for re-election, NDP Media Secretary Ali Eddin Helal dismissed such speculation as “premature, if not insolent.”

This sort of public airing of internal NDP dissent is unusual, and could pose a unique opportunity for opposition forces in the country.  Significant steps toward democratic transitions often occur at moments of division among ruling elites, and this is the clearest such moment in years.  While Masoud argues that a democratic transition is more likely through the 2017 presidential election, by that time it is quite likely that the new president – whether Gamal Mubarak or another choice such as Omar Suleiman or Ahmed Shafiq – will have consolidated his power over the ruling party and eliminated the rifts that we see today.

While Masoud may be correct that Gamal Mubarak would make a weaker, more vulnerable president than his father, that is far from certain.  Moreover, the current moment of transition offers an opportune moment for political reform than may not soon return once that transition is complete.  Advocates of Egyptian democracy would be best served by steadfastly demanding reform and more open political processes - from President Hosni Mubarak and then from whomever may emerge to replace him.


tags: Mubarak / Gamal Mubarak / NDP / Ruling Regime / Inheritance / Democracy in Egypt / Egyptian Opposition / Political Reform / Egyptian People / Assad / Egyptian Security / Baradei / NAC / Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood / Civil State / / Moderate Muslim Brotherhood / Moderate MB / Egyptian Constitution / Article 76 / IAEA / Boycott Election / 2005 Election / Vote-Rigging / Omar Suleiman / Bashar al-Assad / Abdullah Saleh / Bouteflika /
Posted in Democracy  
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