Inquiry and Analysis - Egypt
July 8, 2003
By Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*
The Grooming of Gamal Husni Mubarak
The Arab world is going through a crisis of succession, the process by which
an outgoing head of state is replaced. In the absence of a democratic
process that guarantees an orderly transition of power, and with a few aging
leaders who have been in power in excess of 20 years, the issue of
succession in the Arab world has become very acute. In three countries -
Syria, Jordan, and Morocco - the sons succeeded their fathers. In the near
future, there remain three countries which will also face this problem -
Egypt, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. This analysis addresses the issue of
succession in Egypt where Gamal Husni Mubarak appears to be positioning
himself as a possible successor to his father, President Husni Mubarak.
Since his selection/election in September, 2002, as the Secretary General
for Policies of the Egyptian ruling party, the National Democratic Party
(NDP), Gamal Mubarak has taken advantage of every opportunity to express his
views on a range of issues, both domestic and foreign. These views have been
given extensive coverage similar to that accorded in the U.S. to a
president-elect. The new Secretariat for Policies was touted in a press
conference held by Safwat al-Sharif, the Egyptian Minister of Information,
as "the beating heart of the party and the instrument for a new
thinking."(1) President Mubarak has said that he sees the elevation of his
son as an opportunity to give the young generation new responsibilities.(2)
The Issue of Succession
Unlike his two predecessors, Gamal Abd Al-Naser and Anwar Al-Sadat, Husni
Mubarak has refused to designate a vice president, a position which he
occupied under President Al-Sadat and which catapulted him into the
presidency of Egypt upon the assassination of the president. After 20 years
in power and now in his 70's, Mubarak is suspected of grooming his 40
year-old son for succession. The appointment of Gamal Mubarak, a former
executive at Bank of America in Cairo and London, to the senior position in
the NDP has been seen as a significant step toward elevating the younger
Mubarak to the pinnacle of the political pyramid. President Mubarak, whose
present term expires in 2004, keeps his plans for the future to himself. In
any event, the issue of succession is not discussed openly in official
circles.(3) If there is one factor that would cause the father to hesitate
on elevating his son to the presidency it is the Syrian model which was
widely criticized in the Arab world. Bu!
t there may be other factors as well, including the need to get his senior
military generals, who are quite powerful, on board for a move of this
When the issue of succession was first debated, President Mubarak insisted
that Egypt was not a monarchy and his son was not the successor to the
presidency. Gamal himself denied any such ambitions. In a recent speech
delivered at the American University in Cairo, Gamal denied that the
creation of the Secretariat for Policies in the ruling party was "a kind of
preparation for his nomination for the presidency." He added coyly, however,
that while the question is not on his mind, "this subject is being debated
and [he] cannot prevent anyone from debating it."(5) In his most recent
visit to the U.S. as the head of a high-level delegation, the second in four
months, Gamal Mubarak said he has always tried to play an active role from
his current position in the ruling party and he was looking forward to
working with his generation to carry out reforms and changes in various
sectors of Egyptian life.(6) He happens to be the leader of two large civil
societies of his generation -!
"The Generation of the Future" and "The Youth of the Future."(7)
Although not a government official, Gamal Mubarak has been received in
Washington in a manner accorded to high government officials. On his first
visit, he met with former-President Bush.
A Washington Post column describing that first visit was titled: "Gorbachev
on the Nile?"(8) When, in his most recent visit in June, Gamal had meetings
with Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Egyptian
weekly Rose El-Youssef was beside itself. An article titled "The Americans
Are Dazzled by His Personality; the Visit Rectified Mistaken Conceptions"
quoted one person as saying, "I have never seen an Arab personality visiting
America at this level who is so advanced, alert, and cultured, or who has
such an open and radiating mind."(9) Interestingly, nowhere in that same
issue of Rose El-Youssef, a newsmagazine first published in 1925, was there
a single reference to Gamal's father, President Husni Mubarak.
Gamal Mubarak's Views on Issues-- Reform and Change
Since his elevation to the Secretary for Policies in the National Democratic
Party, Gamal Mubarak has tried to position himself to the left of his
conservative father on many political, economic, and social issues.
The words "reform and change" are woven into Gamal Mubarak's thoughts about
Egypt's future. In terms of programs, the two words are translated into: (a)
bringing Egypt into the global economy(10); (b) supporting reforms in the
highly bureaucratized and inefficient public sector; (c) bringing Egyptian
youth into the political process; (d) increasing the role of women in
politics; and (e) expanding trade, including support for the recent American
initiative for a Middle Eastern free trade zone as a means of reducing a
serious unemployment problem. Mubarak insists that reform and change will
not start from point zero. "In terms of a lot of the pillars of a free
pluralistic society, in terms of dissident views, in terms of argument and
counter-argument, in terms of election on many levels, whether on the local
level or the national level, we have come a long way." He has repeatedly
said that reform and change in Egypt are not tied to one person but to an
entire generation.(11) !
Gamal Mubarak has called for reforming the education system to make it more
outward looking. In an unprecedented move, he also called for reform in the
education system in the most venerable religious institution - the
The only change Mubarak is not prepared to consider is the way the president
is elected - by plebiscite, with no opponents, rather than by free
elections. This is consistent with his views that his party is "the only
party qualified to lead Egypt at the present time."(13)
Gamal Mubarak has said the party will soon consider measures to reduce the
emergency powers of the government under the emergency law, to abolish
imprisonment with hard labor, and to create new councils for human
In foreign policy, he spoke against the war in Iraq. In fact, he led the
largest demonstration in Cairo in the 24-year history of the ruling party,
albeit a demonstration without anti-American statements or placards.(15) In
an earlier statement, Gamal said Egypt would not participate in any military
action against Iraq "because the Egyptian position, government and people,
are in favor of a peaceful solution of the Iraqi crisis."(16) He said that
peace [with Israel] has benefited economic growth activity in Egypt and, at
the same time, allowed Egypt to support the Palestinian case. He called for
solidarity with the Palestinian people, for the creation of a Palestinian
state, and against the Judaization of Jerusalem.(17) While he sees a role
for Egypt as a leader of the Arab world, he believes this leadership role
can be attained only by Egypt's engagement in real reforms, rather than by
merely mouthing slogans.(18)
Little information is available on Gamal Mubarak's wealth but he is known to
have established a private investment company with a capital of $100
million.(19) An example of influence peddling was provided in the recent
issue of Rose El-Youssef involving the sale of B.M.W in Egypt. The owners,
the Abu-Al-Futuh family and their partners, were asking 200 million Egyptian
pounds (approximately $40 million). The buyers offered 140 million, and when
the sellers refused to go below 160 million pounds, the Minister of Industry
and Technology, D. Ali Al-Sa'idi, intervened, and the sellers accepted the
offer of 140 million pounds. The buyers of the company were Qatari
individuals (with 80 percent interest), a German company (with 15 percent),
and Gamal Mubarak (with the remaining 5 percent), who has also assumed the
role of chief executive of the new company, renamed as "Bavari Egypt."(20)
The intervention of the minister in a commercial transaction speaks for
The general conference of the ruling party will convene next September. This
will be a critical meeting since, on the agenda, are questions regarding (a)
whether President Mubarak will seek a fifth five-year term as president of
Egypt; and (b) whether a new candidate will be selected, either Gamal or
someone else. If Husni Mubarak decides to run again, or more accurately to
be selected since he runs unopposed in a plebiscite, the key question is
whether he will designate a vice president and who will be anointed for that
position. He will probably run to give his son at least a few more years of
The United States could find itself faced with a dilemma should Gamal ascend
to the presidency. Committed to bringing democracy to the Middle East, the
U.S. might find the creation of a new dynasty inconsistent with its
intensions. It is not surprising that Gamal Mubarak may be seeking to garner
American support and legitimacy by his frequent visits to the U.S. and by
presenting himself both in private meetings and in public as a reliable
American friend and an element of both reform and stability.
*Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic
(1) Al-Ahram (Egypt), September 18, 2002.
(2) Al-Hayat (London), September 19, 2002.
(3) Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 5, 2002.
(4) See an earlier treatment of the subject of Egyptian succession in
MEMRI's Inquiry and Analysis series No. 31 of July 24, 2000, and No. 32 of
July 25, 2000.
(5) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 6, 2003.
(6) Al-Hayat (London), June 28, 2003.
(7) Al-Hayat (London), May 7, 2003.
(8) The Washington Post, February 10, 2003.
(9) Rose El-Youssef (Egypt), No. 3916, 28-6: July 4, 2003.
(10) See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 121, "The Floating of the
Egyptian Pound: Gamal Mubarak's Initiative."
(11) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 28, 2003.
(12)Al-Hayat (London), June 1, 2003.
(13)Al-Hayat (London), December 13, 2002.
(14) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 6, 2003.
(15) Al-Hayat (London), March 6, 2003.
(16) Al-Hayat (London), February 24, 2003.
(17) Al-Hayat (London), March 6, 2003.
(18) Al-Hayat (London), March 19, 2003.
(19) Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 5, 2002.
(20) Rose El-Youssef (Egypt), June 28/July 4, 2003, p.84.
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