Egypt’s Reshuffled Leadership Succession

Egypt’s Reshuffled Leadership Succession

When this article was commissioned back in December, its aim was to provide readers with an understanding of the players and scenarios for a leadership succession in Egypt. Just who would rule the country when President Hosni Mubarak eventually relinquished power had been a central question in Egyptian politics for the better part of the last decade. The most oft-mentioned contenders were Mubarak's second son, Gamal, and his close adviser, Lt. Gen. Omar Suleiman, then the chief of the General Intelligence Service.

Rumors of Gamal Mubarak's ascendance began in earnest around 1999 when, after a stint at Bank of America in Cairo and London, he began to dabble in politics. He first entertained the idea of starting his own political party, but instead joined the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Gamal was no party backbencher, however. He was named leader of the party's Policies Secretariat -- a vehicle created specifically for him -- and later became deputy secretary-general of the NDP. Gamal's rise fueled the widely held suspicion that the elder Mubarak was preparing the country for a familial succession. Indeed, constitutional amendments in 2005 and an additional round of changes in 2007 strongly indicated that the ruling party was setting the stage to nominate Gamal as its presidential candidate once Hosni Mubarak stepped down or died. The seeming inevitability of a Gamal presidency contributed greatly to popular anger toward Hosni Mubarak, the NDP and a government that featured a number of high-profile ministers who were aligned with the younger Mubarak.

As for Suleiman, he became Mubarak's right-hand man in the mid-1990s and served as Egypt's primary interlocutor with the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as frequently with the United States. He also controlled Egypt's most sensitive foreign policy file, Sudan. In addition, Suleiman had a role in domestic politics, since the intelligence service that he led enjoyed both foreign and domestic prerogatives. Although Suleiman did not have a reputation for being a progressive, at one time he may have been an acceptable candidate to many Egyptians who were opposed to a Mubarak family dynasty.

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