EGYPT: NDP conference fails to ease succession fears
Egypt's ruling elite is not talking about what everyone wants to hear.
The National Democratic Party's annual convention, launched on Saturday under the slogan "For every citizen's sake," is unfolding amid the fears of many Egyptians that Gamal Mubarak -- a leading NDP official and son of current President Hosni Mubarak -- is being tailored to succeed his father in the 2011 presidential elections.
While many were anxious to see if the party would announce or even drop a hint on whether Gamal Mubarak would be nominated for the coming elections, top NDP officials did not broach the matter during speeches Saturday and today. In his address to the party faithful, President Mubarak, 81, gave no indication whether he would seek another term or step aside.
"We were hoping the NDP will be brave enough to either confirm or deny that Gamal Mubarak will be running in the coming presidential elections, unfortunately ... none of the officials talked about the issue," said Hamdi Hassan, spokesman for the parliamentary bloc of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition party.
Former Minister of Information and current NDP Secretary-General Safwat Sherif blasted the independent news media for raising what he called "speculative" suggestions that Gamal Mubarak will be the country's next president, adding that it is too early to discuss who will be the party's presidential candidate.
Today, in what was seen as a speech to raise his popularity among Egyptians, Gamal Mubarak defended the party's policies without delving into the succession drama, stressing that the NDP is working for the good of Egyptians rather than serving the interests of the country's tycoons as the opposition claims. Many in Egypt, a country where about 40% of the population lives on $2 or less a day or, regard the ruling party as corrupt and looking out only for the rich and politically connected.
Regarding the financial aspect, opposition figures were disillusioned to see NDP members boast of the country's booming economy throughout the first two days of the conference. The vice president of the opposition Democratic Front party, Sekina Fouad, said, "Every year they [NDP] talk about the success of previous plans and the bright ideas they still have for developing the country, but what we witness on the ground is further deterioration in every Egyptian's life."
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Gamal Mubarak. Credit: AFP