Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Egypt grapples with question of presidential succession

In Michael Slackman’s article in the International Herald Tribune Wednesday, he highlights a question on the minds of many Egyptians: “Who will take the place of President Hosni Mubarak?”

As Slackman notes, “Mubarak has been president for nearly three decades. He is the longest-serving president since the removal of the king, having served longer than Gamal Abdel Nasser, a pioneer of Arab nationalism, and longer than Anwar Sadat, the man who made peace with Israel. He is routinely referred to as Egypt’s modern-day pharaoh, though usually in a cautious whisper.”

Mubarak’s governing party, the National Democratic Party will hold a general assembly on Friday with six thousand five hundred delegates from around Egypt, including guests from around the world. The discussion will likely center on the economy, politics and counterterrorism. However, Slackman writes: “What they will not discuss, party officials said, is succession – arguably, and in many minds, one of the most important issues regarding Egypt's long-term stability.”

“Who will come after Mubarak? It is a question many people here ask, but as a party officials said after a briefing on the upcoming convention, ‘You will never get the answer you want,’” the article says.

“The issue of succession is regulated by the Constitution,” said Ali el Din Helal, a party official at a briefing in advance of the convention. “This is a country ruled by institutions, not by individuals.”

“That is the answer you get,” Slackman writes, in reference to el Din Helal’s comments. “But the issue is so sensitive that the government is prepared to put an editor in prison after his newspaper ran stories saying the president was in ill health. The government’s own prosecutors alleged that the news so shook the nation, it cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars. As the rumors swirled about the president’s health, Egypt’s chief religious official, appointed by the president, issued a religious edict, saying that journalists who spread rumors should receive 80 lashes.”

For the full article, click here.

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