2011-02-11 The problems of the presidential succession in Egypt

The struggle for democracy, unleashed indirectly in Egypt by the leaking of thousands of secret documents from the U.S. Diplomatic service, is particularly complicated due to Egypt’s political situation in the Middle East. The necessary succession of the Mubarak regime results in a very fragile state of affairs, as the important players in area, Israel and the U.S. on one hand, and Palestine, Syria and Iran on the other, all know how important it is to count the future Egyptian president as an ally. Precisely because of this, in a 2007 cable 07CAIRO1417 the U.S. ambassador in Cairo says that “Presidential succession is the elephant in the room of Egyptian politics. Despite incessant whispered discussions, no one in Egypt has any certainty about who will succeed Mubarak, or how the succession will happen”.

As of now, Egypt is entering its third week of paralysis; protests and riots are still widespread across the country and without a sign of relent. President Mubarak has hidden himself and even though he has come out to assure the nation that he will not run for President again, the government’s stance on the matter indicates that he does not want to step down from his office, but rather that he prefers to stall and see if the situation calms down. To relieve some tension he shifted power toward Omar Suleiman, the vice-president and the strong arm currently in charge of running the country. This political maneuver is revealing after taking into account the strategic interest from Egypt’s allies, Israel and the U.S. It is obvious that even though the Obama administration has publicly asked Mubarak to step down and allow a democratic transition, they did this knowing that they could never permit a figure such as Amre Moussa’s, the secretary of the Arab League, to lead the country.

The nature of this three-way alliance has been revealed in recently published cables, which show the motivations behind it in numbers: cable 09CAIRO874, for example, states: “peace with Israel has cemented Egypt’s moderate role in Middle East peace efforts and provided a political basis for continued U.S. military and economic assistance ($1.3 billion and $250 million, respectively)”. Adding to this feeling, cable 07CAIRO3503 reveals the submissive nature of Suleiman towards Israel, as he is said to have stated “that the Israeli Defence Force would be "welcome" to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling”, and went as far as to affirm that, “Egypt wants Gaza to go "hungry" but not "starve”. More significantly, a cable from 2008 also points out significantly the benefits of a calming period for the people of Gaza, after which the Israelis could start to build institutions against Hamas, a plan alarmingly reminiscent to the recent populist measure of raising government salaries by 15%, as if he was precisely trying to calm the population down to his benefit. This man, the former head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, has also been identified personally as a torturer and has strong ties with the C.I.A, accusations that have been corroborated by the leaked cables.

Therefore, succession in Egypt is clearly a matter of international interest, something that does not only affect the Egyptian people but also the delicate balance of powers in Middle East, especially concerning the Gaza siege. If things go as planned, the U.S. and Israel will have succeeded in placing their preferred candidate and there will not be, as there has never been up until now, a real peace negotiation in Gaza. Also, this strong external pressure means that the battered Egyptian people will have to fight hard to achieve a real democratic transition, luckily, however, after Mubarak’s defiant speech on Thursday it seems the crowd in Tahrir square will just continue to grow day after day.

Read this article in arabic.

free and democratic elections

surely it is time we used the united nations to organise and scrutinise ALL elections in the world....even in "stable"democratic countries where allegations of vote-rigging is not un-common,this neutral organisation can also be responsible for the safety of the ppl wanting to cast their vote without retribution or intimidation....we need a new way...america playing policeman to the world has not worked anywhere....and i am sure they are tired of the constant critisism they get for trying...

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