Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak seems to be clearing the way for a successor in the near future. He decided last summer to give a new prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, the reins of government for the last year of his fourth term in power. But the question still remains if the 76-year-old Mubarak will still opt for a fifth term or will stand aside and make way for another representative of the governing National Democratic Party (NDP).
Mubarak's son, Gamal, is tipped by many to be the prince in waiting--although Mubarak has stated clearly that he is not keen on what might appear to be the creation of a dynasty. Nevertheless, Gamal and his coterie of younger free-market reformers are in the ascendant within the circles of power.
The new government, led since mid-July by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, is focusing its efforts on revitalising the economy, characterised for so long by protection and subsidies. Economic reform is becoming less of an empty promise and more of an impending reality in North Africa's biggest nation.
At the 2003 inaugural NDP annual conference, political reform was the buzzword with bold constitutional reforms promised. With the exception of the suspension of state security courts and hard-labour prison sentences, (beside one or two other somewhat apolitical aspects of the state of emergency in effect for the past …