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October 07, 2010

Egyptian Democracy Doesn’t Need Gamal Mubarak
Posted by The Editors

Gamal Mobarak Point This guest post is by Stephen McInerney, Director of Advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy.

In a recent article for the Foreign Policy Middle East Channel, Tarek Masoud makes the provocative claim that a rigged succession from President Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal may in fact be “the best hope for Egyptian democracy.”  Masoud makes some compelling points, but his overall argument overreaches.  The “best hope for Egyptian democracy” lies not with the president’s son, but with opposition demands for political reforms that empower the Egyptian people.

First, Masoud distorts the position of those opposing an inherited succession from father to son, declaring that “Egypt's opposition forces and Western advocates of democracy promotion all seem to agree on one thing: Gamal Mubarak should not be allowed to succeed his father Hosni Mubarak as President of Egypt.”  To be clear, no one has argued that Gamal should “not be allowed” to succeed his father as president – on the contrary, the Egyptian opposition would welcome an open process in which Gamal were to run against other candidates in a free election. 

Secondly, Masoud suggests that a Gamal Mubarak presidency would set the stage for a rising opposition to challenge him in the future.  This recalls hopes that surfaced ten years ago in Syria, that the younger, Western-educated Bashar al-Assad would be a weak ruler more susceptible than his father to pressure from Syria’s opposition.  A lesson from the younger Assad’s presidency and from similar father-to-son transitions in Jordan and Morocco is that these perceived openings often prove elusive. 

Masoud counters that if Gamal Mubarak were to come to power in 2011 through an (albeit rigged) “contested” election [the quotes are his], his fate would be bound to uncertain elections in the years ahead.  However, regularly contested - but rigged - elections have failed to weaken the grip of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen or Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria.  Gamal’s lack of legitimacy and more tenuous hold on power could just as likely lead him to use the Egyptian security apparatus to consolidate his control even more aggressively than his father. 

Masoud goes on to argue that a Gamal Mubarak presidency should be welcomed as a less dreadful alternative to a military coup, an additional term for President Hosni Mubarak, or an orchestrated handover to a military or intel chief like Omar Suleiman.  Here, Masoud too easily dismisses any other, more favorable paths for Egypt’s presidential succession and its 2011 election, representing quite a reversal in recent months.  In May, Masoud asserted that Egypt’s “best hope for change is for its citizens to storm the ballot box, and ElBaradei, with his reputation for courage and probity, might be just the man to lead them.” 

The timing of this change in position is surprising.  In recent weeks, ElBaradei has drawn attention for escalating his fight against the Mubarak regime through a series of increasingly defiant speeches and statements promising large-scale civil disobedience if reform demands are ignored.  ElBaradei’s seven demands for reform have gained approximately 900,000 signatures (as compared with only 50,000 collected in support of Gamal Mubarak’s candidacy), with the majority collected by the Muslim Brotherhood.  This seems to have demonstrated increased opposition coordination, particularly between the Brotherhood and ElBaradei’s National Association for Change.      

In addition, while Masoud now focuses on internal opposition dissent, such divides are by no means limited to Egypt’s opposition.  Speculation over presidential succession has recently exposed clear rifts within the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).  Four NDP members of parliament drew attention by refusing to sign a petition in support of Gamal Mubarak’s presidential candidacy.  After Ibrahim Kamel of the NDP’s General Secretariat described Gamal Mubarak as “the only NDP candidate,” should his father choose not to run for re-election, NDP Media Secretary Ali Eddin Helal dismissed such speculation as “premature, if not insolent.”

This sort of public airing of internal NDP dissent is unusual, and could pose a unique opportunity for opposition forces in the country.  Significant steps toward democratic transitions often occur at moments of division among ruling elites, and this is the clearest such moment in years.  While Masoud argues that a democratic transition is more likely through the 2017 presidential election, by that time it is quite likely that the new president – whether Gamal Mubarak or another choice such as Omar Suleiman or Ahmed Shafiq – will have consolidated his power over the ruling party and eliminated the rifts that we see today.

While Masoud may be correct that Gamal Mubarak would make a weaker, more vulnerable president than his father, that is far from certain.  Moreover, the current moment of transition offers an opportune moment for political reform that may not soon return once that transition is complete.  Advocates of Egyptian democracy would be best served by steadfastly demanding reform and more open political processes - from President Hosni Mubarak and then from whomever may emerge to replace him.


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The two billion dollars a year in US aid to Egypt has bought the US a docile, pro-western anti-democratic dictatorship which the US would hate to lose. I'm sure that the US ambassador is currently working against the possibility of any reforms and for the retention of the status quo.

Compared to an ideal democracy, the prospect of Gamal Mubarak, inherits his father's seat is obviously repulsive. But true democracy is not on the table Egypt.It is obvious that the world community now that the Egyptian economy grows and evolves with a rate of envy.

Your blog is so nice.I am impressed with your vivid expression.I will bookmarked you…keep up the good work!!!!

I'm sorry, but Tarek Masoud argument makes much more sense in today's political climate in Egypt. While this stagnant political climate is the result of 30 years of NDP ruling and 20yrs of Nasser and Sadat before that, opposition parties, with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood, are in no shape to pose a real threat to the NDP (again thanks to the NDP) nor are they capable of governing, which makes free and transparent elections at this time extremely dangerous, the MB would win hands down, and that would be the death of the democratic process. I agree that “Advocates of Egyptian democracy would be best served by steadfastly demanding reform and more open political processes - from President Hosni Mubarak and then from whomever may emerge to replace him” but what makes you so sure that whomever may replace him would listen? This is no time to play Russian roulette. Emphasis should be on institution building, education, human rights, social, political and economic reforms. Free election in my opinion is the last step in a long process towards true democracy.

The Sensible Endorsement - Gamal Mubarak for President

Anyone who wants Gamal Mubarak as president is either one of his lover boys or a scared ignorant who still falsely believe that democracy would lead to Islamists seizing the country. This is the same old repeated excuse that Mubarak used for years to let the world turn a blind eye on his tyranny. The Muslim brotherhood is the scarecrow that he - and now his son- uses to scare the west.

let me clarify some points. If Egypt becomes a democracy and different political parties are allowed to participate freely for just a year, the Mb will max. gain about 30-35% of parliamentary seats which could be a majority but not the 50% majority. And here's another point, all the other parties are anti-MB one way or another so the 30-35% share won't help the MB much 'cause the other 65-70% have completely different ideologies for them. ...oh and in the next election cycle the MB will lose more seats.

Another point; each country has its own unique status and identity. To generalize and think that simply any Muslim country adhering to democracy will mean Islamists gaining power is pathetic, ignorant and irrational...just like all other generalizations . Egypt is just an example. Egyptians don't like MB much . They have just like 1-2% support but they are influential because Egyptians deserted politics long time ago hence making the MB the main opposition group. Set political freedom in Egypt and watch the MB as they go back in the queue.

Oh and Gamal Mubarak wrecked Egypt. Poverty is like 50% or more. Forget the GNP,; it goes straight to his and his beloved businessmen pockets. Illiteracy is like 30% and the other 70% including me have been through a crap educational system that have many detrimental effects including breeding extremism.

Tyranny breeds extremism. Democracy won't get fundamentalist into power; rather it will get rational people that serve the people not their pockets. Tyranny equals oppression and poverty and ignorance; all ingredients for extremism. It's time for the west to do whats right and support freedom and democracy in Egypt. Don't do the same old wrong mistake (remember the Shah).


Democracy is much more than just elections, it's about sharing ideas, respecting differing views and until we learn how to debate without calling everybody that has a different opinion names, there is no hope for democracy in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood won 20% of parliament seats in 2005 and that is only because the Government intervened, in fact they could have won a majority if you consider that the NDP won only something like 36%, and they only got the majority they needed by enlisting independent candidates, that is not what can be called a scarecrow, they are a real threat with a lot of popular support.

It's not important that other parties have different ideology than the MB, of course they do, what's important is the support they have among the electorates, they are week parties without grass root support. Besides, what are those parties? The leftist Tagamou? Or the Naserites, the Wafd? In my opinion they're just as bad as the MB with their socialist agendas that brought the economy to it's knees in the first place.

I'm not advocating maintaining the status quo, there has to be change. The emergency law must be lifted, the government should be pressured to improve it's human rights record, reform is needed everywhere, but we don't need neither an Islamic state nor a socialist one. As you said, with 30% illiteracy and a useless education system, you have an electorate base that cannot be trusted to make the right choice.

Rich democracies didn't get there by antagonizing business or alienating businessmen, private enterprise creates jobs not the government. If you want to know who really wrecked Egypt, you need to go back to before Gamal Mubarak was born.


MB won the seats because there are no other efficient political parties in Egypt ,thanks to the destroyed political life on the hands of Mubarak, Gamal and the rest of the NDP. As I said if a free political life is allowed in Egypt, within one year you will find series competitors for the MB.

Of course, I am not tlaking about Wafd, Tagamo2 or Naseerites. These are three NDP muppets. But I'm sure that within a very short period, series political parties will come into effect...Something that won't happen if the NDP stays in power.

Gama Mubarak is a series leader of Egypt for 5 years now. What was the result?? A worse situation. And if he's a promising candidate or the best viable option, why does he keep the corrupt traitors and thieves around him..assuming that he's not one of them. He's to blame as much as the rest..he's one of them. The problem is with the NDP. Electing an NDP member whoever he is is maintaining the status quo..if not worsening it.

Check this out, I'm sure you'll find it interesting.

I agree that if political reform is implemented (not free elections) it will lead to more vibrant and legitimate political parties, but within a short time, I doubt that very much, it will take years if not decades, unfortunately elections are next year, simply not enough time.

Obviously we disagree on one very fundamental point, and that is the role of free market economy, local and foreign investments. One thing really disturbs me, your resentment of businessmen. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, we've been there before, 50s and 60s nationalization policies, free education, free health care, free this and free that, until we were almost bankrupt. Almost every socialist and communist country in the world, with the exception of Sweden and China, have failed, even Sweden is rethinking it's socialism, and China's miraculous achievements were only possible by following market economy. Believe it or not, Gamal Mubarak's economic reforms are what saved the country from total collapse during 2008 recession. Gamal in not fully in control of government, his father still has the final say, that's why we are limping instead of running forward.

The country has been through 60 years of economic and political mess, change is coming, just don't expect it to happen overnight.

anne ve cocuklar

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