(by Nicholas Kralev, WashingtonTimes.com) CAIRO – The man widely seen as Egypt’s next leader is adopting a harsh tone toward the United States, saying Washington’s influence in the region has decreased significantly because of Bush administration policies in the Middle East.
During a ruling party conference regarded by many as part of an effort to legitimize the rise to power of President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal, the younger Mr. Mubarak said the administration adopted “the wrong vision” after September 11, 2001.
“They went into a mode of democracy and elections,” he told foreign guests at the four-day general conference of the National Democratic Party (NDP), which concluded yesterday.
“They made the single-minded conclusion that this was the way to marginalize the extremist forces,” Mr. Mubarak said. “That was a strategic mistake. You can’t belittle the feeling of injustice and humiliation [in the Arab world] caused by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.”
Because of that “mistake,” and because the United States “wasted” more than six years by being “absent” from Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, America’s “influence has decreased,” he said.
Although Egyptian officials are not shy about expressing their views about U.S. policies in private, such sharp language has rarely been used in public by Egypt, the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel.
On a more positive note, Mr. Mubarak said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s latest effort to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians is genuine and she is “trying to make a difference,” though he expressed doubt she has enough time to complete a deal before President Bush leaves office.
Miss Rice, who hopes to host a peace conference in Annapolis later this month, has said it is possible for a Palestinian state to be established before the end of Mr. Bush’s term.
Mr. Mubarak, a former investment banker in London who turns 44 next month, did not even attend an NDP conference until the last one in 2002.
Now he is the party’s No. 2 official and heads its policy-making committee. On Saturday, he also was elected to the new Supreme Committee, which will choose the party’s presidential candidate in 2011.
The prospect of a succession from father to son sparked some protests three years ago, but those scenes have since disappeared. The subject had almost vanished from public discussions until press reports last summer that the current president was ill.
Both father and son are said to be trying to avoid the scenario that occurred in Syria when President Hafez Assad died in 2000 and his son, Bashar, automatically succeeded him.
“Gamal needs to work hard in order to acquire legitimacy,” said Michele Dunne, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a guest at the NDP conference. “It’s not considered acceptable for the son to simply succeed his father.”
Diplomats and analysts credit the younger Mr. Mubarak with trying to turn the NDP into more of a real political party rather than just a top-down organization that exists to legitimize his father’s hold on power.
But they also say he shares his father’s authoritarian impulse, even though he is more realistic than the current president about the poor living standards and other hardships of many Egyptians.
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. What is the NDP?
2. Who is Gamal Mubarak?
3. For what reason did Gamal Mubarak criticize the U.S. government during his speech to the NDP this week?
4. Why were Mr. Mubarak’s remarks about the U.S. surprising?
5. a) Name the two countries that receive the most aid from the U.S. per year.
b) How much aid has Egypt received from the U.S. since 1975? (Find the answer at the website for the U.S. government’s USAID usaid.gov.)
c) Where does the money come from that is given to Egypt by the U.S.?
6. Read about the purpose for USAID at usaid.gov/about_usaid/. What do you think of the goal for these U.S. funds and how the money is being used?
7. Gamal Mubarak did not even attend an NDP conference until the last one 5 years ago. Now he is the party’s No. 2 official and has just been elected to the Supreme Committee which will choose the party’s presidential candidate in 2011. He is credited by some as trying to turn the NDP into more of a real political party that exists to legitimize his father’s hold on power. But they also say he shares his father’s authoritarian impulse. Read the BACKGROUND ON EGYPT’S GOVERNMENT below.
Do you think that Gamal Mubarak will become Egypt’s next president? Explain your answer.
BACKGROUND ON EGYPT’S GOVERNMENT
Egypt has been a republic since 18 June 1953. President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has been the President of the Republic since October 14, 1981, following the assassination of former-President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat. Mubarak is currently serving his fifth term in office. He is the leader of the ruling National Democratic Party. Dr. Ahmed Nazif …[has been] Prime Minister [since 2004]….
Although power is ostensibly organized under a multi-party semi-presidential system, whereby the executive power is theoretically divided between the President and the Prime Minister, in practice it rests almost solely with the President who traditionally has been elected in single-candidate elections for more than fifty years. Egypt also holds regular multi-party parliamentary elections. The last presidential election, in which Mubarak won a fifth consecutive term, was held in September 2005.
In late February 2005, President Mubarak announced in a surprise television broadcast that he had ordered the reform of the country’s presidential election law, paving the way for multi-candidate polls in the upcoming presidential election. For the first time since the 1952 movement, the Egyptian people had an apparent chance to elect a leader from a list of various candidates. The President said his initiative came “out of my full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy.” However, the new law placed draconian restrictions on the filing for presidential candidacies, designed to prevent well-known candidates such as Ayman Nour from standing against Mubarak, and paved the road for his easy re-election victory. Concerns were once again expressed after the 2005 presidential elections about government interference in the election process through fraud and vote-rigging, in addition to police brutality and violence by pro-Mubarak supporters against opposition demonstrators. After the election, Egypt imprisoned Nour….[and] he was sentenced to five years in jail… (from the wikipedia.org entries on Egypt, under “Politics” and Ayman Nour, under “Arrest and Imprisonment”)
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