In Egypt, Rumors of President Hosni Mubarak Demise Fuel Uncertainty. Who Will Lead Next?

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Egypt has been churning with speculation after President Hosni Mubarak had surgery in Germany last week, despite official reports that he's recovering well. He has ruled the country for nearly three decades.

More than a week after Egypt's 81-year-old President Hosni Mubarak underwent surgery in Germany, the Arab world's most populous country is churning again with speculation over his condition.

But this time the rumors, which sent Egypt's stocks down on Sunday and Monday, underscore heightened uncertainty in Egypt over who will succeed Mr. Mubarak. Democracy advocates are pushing for the ability to elect a leader in a free and fair election, hoping to overturn a regime that has overseen human rights abuses and intimidated opposition parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Egypt is facing a serious and critical moment, and everybody feels it," says Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist at Cairo University who has organized a campaign against hereditary succession in Egypt. "This will make it worse, certainly.

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State media and the German hospital where Mubarak underwent his surgery have reported that the president is recovering well. But that has not stopped Egyptians from speculating about his possible demise.

Mubarak has ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years and said he would rule until his "last breath." He is widely perceived to be grooming his son Gamal to take power - though many analysts predict that Mubarak may attempt another six-year term before passing the torch. But the energizing presence of newcomer Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the UN's nuclear monitoring agency who returned to Egypt in February, is pressuring the government to enact reforms and Mr. ElBaradei is hinting that he might run for president. He is widely seen as more qualified than Gamal Mubarak, a businessman who heads the ruling party's policy secretariat.

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