Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly said that Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party is the only party legally eligible to field a presidential candidate. A 10-year provision in a 2007 constitutional amendment made it possible for registered political parties that have a single seat in parliament and have been in operation for five years to field a candidate.

In Egypt, A Son Is Readied for Succession

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By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 11, 2007

CAIRO -- Tall and gangly, his hairline edging toward the back of his head, the man on stage in khakis and shirt sleeves spoke woodenly despite the energy and friendliness evident in his audience of well-off Egyptian college students and recent graduates.

The speaker's hand gestures lagged behind his words. Passion flowed into his voice only when he talked about trade liberalization and market reform. His listeners at the youth forum applauded, but not as much as they had for some other speakers.

Gamal Mubarak, son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the man most widely expected to succeed him, had not made much of an impression. Then again, Egyptians say, Gamal Mubarak probably doesn't have to.

Egyptians have never experienced a democratic transfer of presidential power. As Hosni Mubarak, 79, begins the 27th year of his rule this month, many say they expect Mubarak's family and ruling party, military officers and security officials to decide on his successor.

Egypt's National Democratic Party is now the only party legally eligible to field a presidential candidate; an independent candidate would need to secure approval to run from commissions dominated by ruling party members.

If power passes to Gamal Mubarak, Egypt would join Syria, Jordan and Morocco -- the latter two officially kingdoms -- on the growing list of modern Middle East dynasties in which sons have taken over from fathers in governments of elites backed by the military and security services. In Libya and Yemen, sons are also seen as the leading candidates to succeed their fathers.

In Egypt, "we didn't choose Sadat, we didn't choose Mubarak, and we're not choosing the next one," Zakaria Nahla, a 52-year-old salesman of cheap furniture, said in a Cairo market crowded with beeping scooters and veiled women picking through racks of clothes.

Asked if they expected to have any say about Mubarak's succession, a group of men with their arms full of round loaves of bread answered in unison, "No, no, no." One underscored the point by wagging a finger and shaking his head.

"We take it as a given" that it will be Gamal Mubarak, said Sayida Amin, 46, a nanny who works for a family in one of Cairo's wealthier districts. "People don't know who he is. We only know he's the president's son, and he's imposed on us."

"We should give him the benefit of the doubt," Amin added, and laughed. "Because he's going to come anyway."

Hosni Mubarak, who rose from the vice presidency when Islamic radicals assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, has never appointed a vice president or announced his preference for a successor. Under the constitution, elections for a new president must follow within 60 days if the president yields power.

While authorities have never confirmed any ailments more serious than back problems for Mubarak, his age has helped fuel cycles of rumors that he is dying or dead.


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