In Egypt, political opposition has reached a fever pitch as concerns surrounding the twilight of the Mubarak regime mount.
In early March, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak flew to Germany, where a team of surgeons removed his failing gall-bladder along with a benign growth. Three weeks later, the president was back on Egyptian soil to resume his recuperation in the coastal city of Sharm-el-Sheik. That the deeply insular leader would announce his poor health was sufficient cause for concern. But if his homecoming ended wild speculation surrounding the president's condition, Egyptians are now faced with the impending likelihood of life after Mubarak. And although Mubarak's surgery was a success, the health of his nation is now at stake.
Since narrowly escaping the 1980 assassination plot that claimed the life of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, Mubarak has obsessed over his grasp on power. He's defined himself as a firm and cautious leader who shows little tolerance for any threats to his rule, whether real or imagined. To preserve his authority, Mubarak has maintained the nation's Emergency Law in effect ever since Sadat's murder. The law provides for an extension of police powers and the legalization of censorship, while limiting political demonstrations, suspending constitutional rights and barring all political parties that lack the official approval of Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP). Virtually all power is consolidated in the hands of the president and his appointees. However, Mubarak's obsession with political ascendance has come at the cost of economic progress, with the lines between political and military power blurred, civil institutions leveled, and the nation polarized.