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Egypt’s Mubarak to win vote, rule for life: US cable

By on December 11, 2010

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, will likely run for a sixth term in 2011, “inevitably” win and stay in office until he dies, the U.S. ambassador to Cairo said in a leaked diplomatic cable.

In the May 2009 cable released by the WikiLeaks website and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Ambassador Margaret Scobey said doubts prevailed over who would succeed Mubarak, 82.

She named his politician son Gamal as “the most likely contender”. She also said that Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman might seek the office and described Arab League Chief Amr Moussa as a “dark horse” who might run.

The cable emerged four days after Mubarak’s ruling party swept to a predictably huge win in a parliamentary election that the opposition denounced as rigged, marred by thuggery and ballot stuffing.

“Despite incessant whispered discussions, no one in Egypt has any certainty about who will eventually succeed Mubarak nor under what circumstances,” Scobey wrote in the secret cable to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, will hold its second multi-candidate poll for the presidency next year. The vote has prompted speculation about whether Mubarak will seek a sixth term.

Officials suggest he will if he can. But rumours about his health have recurred since he had surgery in March, even though he has now returned to a full work schedule.

If he does not, many believe Gamal, 46, could run, or possibly another candidate with a military background.

“Mubarak’s ideal of a strong but fair leader would seem to discount Gamal Mubarak to some degree, given Gamal’s lack of military experience, and may explain Mubarak’s hands off approach to the succession question,” Scobey said.

“Indeed, he seems to be trusting to God and the ubiquitous military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition.”

POWER

Scobey said Mubarak often resisted U.S. calls to Egypt to introduce political reforms and loosen “the pervasive control” of security forces.

“Certainly the public ‘name and shame’ approach in recent years strengthened his determination not to accommodate our views,” she said.

Scobey added that Mubarak had maintained a tight grip on power, alienated advisers and marginalised opposition, a view echoed by analysts as steps that may empower radicals who say an Islamic state can only be achieved by force.

Analysts say that quashing the government’s Islamist critics in the parliamentary polls looks like a heavyhanded show of strength by authorities nervous about dissent before the presidential vote.

“Mubarak has no single confidante or adviser who can truly speak for him, and he has prevented any of his main advisers from operating outside their strictly circumscribed spheres of power,” Scobey wrote.

“Omar Soliman and Interior Minister al-Adly keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics.”

She described Mubarak as “a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals”.

“Gamal Mubarak and a handful of economic ministers have input on economic and trade matters, but Mubarak will likely resist further economic reform if he views it as potentially harmful to public order and stability.”

Analysts say many Egyptians are deeply suspicious of any economic reforms, viewing them as designed to make the rich richer at the expense of the poor.

“Economic reform momentum has slowed and high GDP growth rates of recent years have failed to lift Egypt’s lower classes out of poverty,” Scobey said, adding that higher inflation rates and the global financial turmoil have resulted in extreme poverty and job losses.

Reuters.

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