EGYPT: Mr. Mubarak and son go to Washington
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is visiting Washington for the first time in five years for talks with President Obama. But it's his choice of traveling companion that's causing a stir back home: Gamal Mubarak, the president son and possible successor, is tagging along.
One of the most debated issues among Egyptians these days is who will follow their 81-year-old leader. The regime rarely tips its hand, but many Egyptians fear that Gamal Mubarak, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party, is being groomed to take over when his father leaves office.
Political analyst Deyaa Rashwan said Gamal's visit to Washington is a sign of what's to come. "America as a democratic country is, of course, against succession, but they have never officially commented on that matter. I feel that Gamal's presence with the Egyptian delegation is a new way of introducing him to the American administration," Rashwan told The Times.
"It is obvious that he is there for such introduction," Rashwan added. "If we take a closer look, we'll find that Gamal shouldn’t be in America because of his NDP position. There are higher-ranked NDP officials like General Secretary Safwat El Sherif, who could have been ahead of him for such selection."
Rashwan noted that it is no coincidence that Gamal Mubarak flew to the U.S. with his father just days after holding an online chat forum for 12,000 Egyptians. "Those kinds of interviews are very welcomed in the West as they're seen as a sign of democracy and reaching out for the youth."
Egyptians are hoping that Obama pressures Mubarak in their talks Tuesday to improve Egypt's dismal human-rights record in the arena of political expression. But it seems that activists hoping to see the end of emergency laws and discrimination against religious minorities will have to wait a bit longer.
"I personally doubt if the Americans will pressure Mubarak to improve his regime's human-rights performance," Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights EIPR told The Times.
Bahgat says the Obama administration policy seems similar to that of former President Bill Clinton's administration. Clinton, he said, voiced frequent public concern about Egypt's human-rights record but no real action took place.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: President Hosni Mubarak. Credit: AFP