President Hosni Mubarak
In 1981, Mubarak, then Vice-President, became president of Egypt following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. Mubarak declared on his inauguration that he would follow the political direction of his predecessor, which was marked by reconciliation with the West and peace with Israel inside internationally recognized borders.
Before becoming president, Mubarak served in the air force and fought in the October war with Israel. He then served as vice-president in 1975 to 1981. Mubarak has ruled Egypt for almost 25 years as head of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and has just been elected for a sixth term as president. As he gets older, however, and with no vice-president appointed, Egyptians are wondering who will succeed him. There are expectations that his son, Gamal (see below), could “inherit the presidency.
In February 2005, Mubarak asked national legislative bodies to revise the constitution to allow, for the first time, multi-candidate presidential elections. Elections were held on Sept. 7, 2005, with Mubarak winning with 88 percent of votes.
He is the younger of President Hosni Mubarak’s two sons. Unlike his elder brother, Gamal has pursued a political career, becoming leader of the party’s so-called “New Guard, which favors a policy of closeness to the U.S. and neo-liberal economic reform.
Many Egyptians believe that he is being groomed to become the president after his father. However, both father and son have publicly denied the possibility of the inheritance of the presidency.
In 2002, Hosni Mubarak nominated Gamal to become the Secretary-General of the ruling NDP’s powerful Policies Secretariat. The committee is considered to be the kitchen in which most government policies are cooked up.
The Secretary-General of the policies secretariat is considered the third most powerful position in the party, and it is strongly believed that Gamal Mubarak is playing an important role in Egyptian politics behind the scenes. When a government reshuffle in the summer of 2004 installed Ahmed Nazif as Prime Minister, the cabinet was dubbed Gamal s cabinet, with most ministers being chosen by the policies committee.
The Muslim Brotherhood
The country’s biggest and best organized Islamist group was founded in the first decades of the twentieth century. After an initial period in which it employed violent methods, the group totally renounced the use of violence in the 1970s and has remained entirely non-violent ever since.
Although the Brotherhood enjoys tremendous grassroots support locally, due among others to its effective social services, it is not an official party due to the ban on religiously-affiliated political groups. Nevertheless, it managed to capture modest handfuls of parliamentary seats in past assemblies by running its candidates as independents.
In the 2005 parliamentary elections which ended in December, the group stunned observers by capturing 88 seats in the 454-seat People’s Assembly, up from only 15 in the outgoing assembly. While the figure isn’t enough to allow the Brotherhood to dictate policy in parliament, the group’s representatives are expected to enjoy an enhanced ability to at least challenge the policies of the ruling NDP.
Ayman Nour is one of the strongest opposition figures in Egypt. He is a member of parliament and chairman of the El-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party. The party was recognized by the Egyptian government in October 2004 and is the party standing for liberal democracy and human rights.
Nour used the party as a platform to demand constitutional reform and the limitation of executive power. Toward the end of January 2005, however, he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and arrested for alleged forgery of documents concerning the formation of the party.
In March 2005, he was released on bail and ran for the presidency in the country’s first presidential election, winning 8 percent of the votes to come in a distant second after President Mubarak. However, last December, in the wake of hard-fought parliamentary elections, Nour was convicted on fraud charges and sentenced to five years in prison. Meanwhile, his supporters maintain the ruling was politically motivated. IRIN