A dismal choice for Egypt

For what, hopefully, will be Hosni Mubarak’s last presidential visitto the United States, the ageing autocrat is allegedly paying US-based Egyptians to demonstrate their support for him. The going rate is said to be $100. Oh dear, the US is so expensive. Back in Egypt, I’m told, the usual reward for this sort of thing is a quarter chicken and a fizzy drink.

Amid growing talk about Mubarak’s successor, most eyes are focused on the president’s son, Gamal, but in an article for Foreign Policy Issandr Amrani looks at the most frequently mentioned alternative candidate for the job: intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Although Suleiman’s chances may be slim (barring a coup), he does seem to have support across the political spectrum:

A leftist leader of the Kefaya movement, Abdel Halim Qandil, has urged the military to save the country from a Mubarak dynasty. The liberal intellectual Osama Ghazali Harb – a former Gamal acolyte who turned to the opposition and founded the National Democratic Front party – has openly advocated a military takeover followed by a period of "democratic transition." 

Hisham Kassem, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, also has stated that a Suleiman presidency would be vastly preferable to another Mubarak one. On Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, partisans of a Suleiman presidency make the same argument …

For Amrani, though, the choice is a dismal one:

Neither Gamal Mubarak nor Omar Suleiman presents a clear departure from the present state of affairs. Neither offers the new social contract that so many of Egypt's 80 million citizens are demanding in strikes and protests. The prevalence of the Gamal vs. Omar debate, more than anything, highlights the low expectations ordinary Egyptians have for a democratic succession to Hosni Mubarak's 28-year reign. 

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 19 August 2009.