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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hosni Mubarak vs. Gamal Mubarak

Though nothing has been announced officially, rumors circulating in Egypt suggest that Egypt's next presidential election will be a battle between father and son. Though this conjures up images of ancient Greek tragedies, an eternal struggle between parent and child, teacher and student, there is really nothing tragic about Hosni and Gamal Mubaraks current situation. With former IAEA chief Mohammed el baradei effectively off the radar, and no other popular political figure in a position to challenge the presidency, the Mubaraks have ensured that they remain the most viable candidates for Egypt's top job. With calls for democratic reform escalating as the election clock winds down, the mubaraks have cleverly found a loophole in the democratic process. Yet why would the Mubaraks run against one another, opening up the media frenzy that will no doubt ensue, when it would be much simpler, and much quieter to have one Mubarak run at a time?

The short answer to this is legitimacy. The Mubarak regime faced growing criticism from the international community regarding the previous elections in 2005. Though the US may have stepped back from democracy promotion in the Middle East since the Obama administration took office, pressure from within Egypt has been building since el baradei arrived on the political scene earlier this year. Holding free and fair elections in Egypt, monitored by international election observers, would certainly serve to silence many of the regime's critics even if the only two candidates on the ballot are father and son.

On the other hand, if Hosni Mubarak were to simply step down and allow his son Gamal to run unopposed, the young politicians political career will be plagued with accusations of nepotism. Of course, these accusations will not disappear entirely even if Gamal wins the presidency by running against his father, but they would certainly be less convincing, particularly if the election campaign was unusually fierce. In addition, by holding these elections Hosni Mubarak is marginalizing the threat posed by the military. While Hosni Mubarak, a former air force pilot, commands the respect of the military generals and officers, Gamal's lack of a military background could prove problematic for the young politicians future, particularly when we consider that every Egyptian president to date has been a former member of the military.

While many in Egypt and throughout the international community may recognize the elections as a farce, it is very unlikely that any internal or external pressures will be able to convince the Mubarak regime to hold competitive elections. More likely than not, the Mubarak regime will continue to hide behind the guise of stability, citing the Muslim brotherhood and their popularity as the reason why elections in Egypt are tightly regulated. Egypt's weak opposition parties will more than likely boycott the elections, and the vast majority of Egyptians will not even visit the polling stations come election day.

Though there is no way to be certain of what the future holds for Egypt, one thing we can be sure of is that the Egyptian people are being ignored by their rulers. While Hosni and Gamal Mubarak are not the victims of this greek tragedy being played out across the mediterranean in Egypt, they are quickly becoming the perpetrators. The only victims in this story are the Egyptian people, 80 million strong but unable to voice their opinions or concerns. Sitting quietly in the audience, forced to observe a show that they have no interest in. All while the actors on stage, father and son, battle it out for their approval.

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