Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak has been in office for 28 years.
With a 2011 election looming, many say his son Gamal is being
groomed for an uncontested handover despite his unpopularity.
On the streets of Cairo, President Hosni Mubarak is jokingly
referred to as Egypt's "last pharaoh." He has held the Egyptian
presidency for 28 years and has yet to name a successor. But with
the presidential election scheduled for September 2011, the country
is abuzz with talk of who will replace the aging leader. That is,
assuming Mr. Mubarak chooses not to run.
Egypt's elections are neither free nor fair, and experts agree
that just as in ancient Egypt, a dynastic transition is likely. This
year, not 2011, will effectively be when Egypt's next president is
decided, because any contender would have to start soon to have
Who's the front-runner?
Gamal Mubarak is Hosni Mubarak's youngest son and is widely
tipped to replace his father. Gamal worked as an investment banker
in London before returning to Egypt to enter politics. In 2002, he
was named to the policy secretariat of the ruling National
Democratic Party (NDP). Widely credited with introducing a series of
economic reforms and liberalizations, he has strong ties with
Egypt's business elite. Despite being unpopular with the citizenry,
Gamal has assumed an increasingly public role and the state-
controlled media frequently features photos of Gamal.
Who are the potential challengers?
There are few people who could legally stand against Gamal
Mubarak, due to candidacy requirements set by constitutional
amendments in 2005 and 2007. But with elites throwing their hats in
the ring, rumors are flying about who could mount a challenge to the
Mubarak family agenda.
Mohamed ElBaradei is a name that keeps cropping up: In December,
the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and
2005 Nobel Prize winner announced he would run for president given
guarantees of a free election. When he flew into Cairo on Feb. 19,
hundreds of supporters greeted him, some holding signs that read:
"Yes: ElBaradei President of Egypt."
But he has set conditions for considering a candidacy that
haven't existed in an Egyptian election since the 1950s. His goal
does not seem to be to become Egypt's president, but rather to bring
democratic reform to the political system. In any case, it does not
seem likely he will receive the constitutionally mandated
endorsements or win enough of Mubarak's supporters to his side.
"If we're looking at potentials for elite conflict or elite
defection, we just don't see it," says Joshua Stacher, a political
scientist at Kent State University. "ElBaradei came out and said
'I'll run for president,' I didn't see a single person ... come out
and say, 'That's a good idea, I'm with Baradei.'"
Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's intelligence chief, hasn't announced
interest in the post, but is assumed to be the powerful military
establishment's man. All three presidents since the overthrow of the
monarchy have been members of the military. If the military
ultimately wavers over Gamal Mubarak's civilian background, Mr.
Suleiman may emerge as a contender.
What obstacles face the Mubarak family as they try to engineer a
Gamal Mubarak's unpopularity is his Achilles' heel. The regime
has tried to craft a "man of the people" persona for him by sending
him to Egyptian soccer matches and flashing photographs of him with
the national team in the state media. …