EGYPT: Who is sponsoring the 'coalition' promoting Mubarak's son?
The Popular Coalition for Supporting Gamal Mubarak launched a campaign to promote the nomination of the president's son in next year's elections. But millions of Egyptians have been wondering about the real force behind the movement.
Last month marked the beginning of efforts to enhance the younger Mubarak's reputation by coalition members, who plastered tens of posters of his image with slogans urging the 47-year-old to follow in his father's footsteps.
However, analysts have always debated whether the head of the ruling National Democratic Party's politburo enjoyed any popular support among ordinary citizens since Gamal Mubarak's introduction to the political scene as a possible heir to his father in 2000.
Growing fear of a possible succession plan that would see Gamal Mubarak take over the presidency come 2011 has been another reason to question who is actually behind this coalition.
NDP spokesman Ali Eddin Helal rushed to reject any links to the campaign, stressing that the party neither endorses nor finances the coalition, which is headed by independent activist Magdi Kurdi.
But a few weeks later, the coalition's assistant coordinator, Iglal Salem, claimed that the NDP Policies Committee official and businessman Ibrahim Kamel provided the campaign with about $350,000.
Members of the coalition sued Salem for "attempting to gain fame at the expense of the coalition and defaming the campaign's image."
The allegation sparked suggestions that a number of businessmen-cum-politicians within the party are keen on installing Gamal Mubarak as the next president because his financial ideology serves their personal interests.
"I believe that this campaign was initiated by a number of businessmen who fear a deterioration in President Mubarak's health and believe that it's better to quicken Gamal's succession while his father is still around," said Mustapha Kamel Sayed, a professor of political science at Cairo University.
Political analyst and columnist Salama Ahmed Salama said he believed that the ruling party could be secretly blessing the pro-Gamal Mubarak campaign.
"The whole thing is meant to look like a grass-roots movement, but the NDP stamp is hard to miss," Salama said.
The newborn coalition has been perceived by some as an indication of the ongoing conflict within NDP itself, whose majority of members have yet to reach unanimous consent over Gamal Mubarak's potential nomination.
"The sudden appearance of the posters could be a window into the battle taking place within the ruling party," said Amr Chobaki, an analyst at the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
"It's a sign that the issue [of nominating Gamal Mubarak] has not been settled internally," he added.
Uncertainty over Gamal Mubarak was highlighted when Prime Minister and top NDP member Ahmed Nazif was once quoted as saying that the Egyptian political system failed to produce a valid substitute for Hosni Mubarak.
On Sunday, the party's general secretary, Sawfat Sherif, stressed that Hosni Mubarak is the only NDP candidate for next year's elections. Analyst Deyaa Rashwan is convinced that the first and last word regarding Gamal Mubarak's candidacy will come down to Mubarak senior.
"President Mubarak is cautious and he knows that the post of the president is subject to forces inside state institutions, including the military," Rashwan said.
"This campaign is primarily aimed at President Mubarak, to convince him that his son is a popular man, and there is no danger in him being the presidential candidate."
Hosni Mubarak, 82, has yet to announce whether he will be running in the elections. Party officials say no final decision on the matter will be made before June.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Defaced election posters in support of Gamal Mubarak. Credit: Agence France-Presse