Egypt, US Ponder Post-Mubarak Egypt
By Elizabeth Arrott, VOA, Cairo
President Obama meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for the third time
Tuesday. The frequency of talks is indicative of how strong Washington's
relations with Cairo have been for decades. But also, for decades, those
relations have rested largely on one man - Mr. Mubarak. The Egyptian leader,
aged 81, is now serving his fifth six-year term, and the question of who may
succeed him has consequences beyond Egypt's borders.
The talks in Washington are centered on the Middle East peace process and the
Arab world's relatiionship with Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, all
issues Mr. Mubarak has taken an active interest in.
But underneath lies the question of what comes next for Egypt, or more
specifically, who. In power since 1981, Mr. Mubarak has given little indication
of what the transition might look like. He has no vice president. He has not
said if he will run for re-election in 2011, and many wonder if that would even
be advisable, as he would be nearly 90 at the end of that term.
It is an issue that concerns not just Egyptians. Professor Said Sadek is a
political scientist at the American University in Cairo, who worries any
instability or political vaccum could be exploited by hardline groups and
politicians across the region that oppose U.S. influence in the region.
"How do you guarantee the transition of power in Egypt, so that we don't have an
unpredictable situation in Egypt that would get you the Muslim Brotherhood here
in alliance with Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Beirut and [Iranian President
Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad in Tehran - voila, the American strategic policy in the
area would collapse," said Sadek.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition movement, is banned. And two
of Egypt's best known international figures, Arab League Secretary General Amr
Moussa and the U.N. nuclear chief Mohammed ElBaradei, have not responded to
supporters' calls to run. That leaves two much-discussed possibilities -
intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman, and Mr. Mubarak's son, Gamal.
While the general has strong ties to Egypt's all-important military, Gamal
Mubarak, a rising star in the ruling party, has obvious ties of his own.
To some Egyptians, the choice does not present a problem. Youssef Tawfuk manages
a car dealership in Cairo.
He says his countrymen leave this subject to God. Egyptians are overwhelmed with
the burdens of the day, he says, and never think about tomorrow.
Many Egyptians, perhaps, but not all.
Gamal Awad, a driver in the Egyptian capital, says what he cares about are free
and fair elections. He says he doesn't care who is elected, just that the
outcome is not rigged.
It is an attitude that has not gone unnoticed. Professor Sadek of the American
University in Cairo.
"Public opinion is becoming a solid factor, and cannot be ignored or neglected,"
he said. "That's why you see the potential candidates are active using any means
to try to influence public opinion."
Gamal Mubarak held a much publicized online chat with Egyptians last week via
the social networking site Facebook. The irony was not lost on members of
Egypt's political opposition, some of whom have been jailed by Gamal's father
for using Facebook to broaden their appeal.
... Payvand News - 08/18/09 ... --