EGYPT: President Hosni Mubarak's role in ruling party unclear
According to the government-owned newspaper Al Ahram, President Hosni Mubarak has resigned as leader of the National Democratic Party. However, state television reported that Mubarak had accepted the resignations of the leaders of the party, including his son, Gamal Mubarak, leaving the president's future role uncertain.
The satellite Al Arabiya network and Al Jazeera reported Saturday that Mubarak, 82, had resigned, citing Egyptian state television.
It appeared the resignations were part of negotiations underway with opposition leaders to transition the country to a new government, and did not signal that the longtime president would relinquish power.
A party official told Reuters he could not confirm the Al Arabiya report, but that if Mubarak had resigned from the party it would not affect his position as president.
“These are two different positions,” the official said.
In its report, state television named the party's new secretary-general as Hossam Badrawi, seen as a member of the liberal wing of the party.
“[The resignation] is very important politically because this party was exploiting the state for the interests of the party, and that has caused a lot of criticism,” analyst Diaa Rashwan told Reuters, adding that it had fueled anger over corruption.
Protesters in recent days have complained about corruption, poverty and political repression that left power in the hands of Mubarak and his allies.
“Practically, it is important because the people using violence were being mobilized by the party … and now they have been stripped of this protection and they won't feel secure that they have a party behind them,” Rashwan told Reuters.
Gamal Mubarak, who fled with his family to London last month when protests began, was ousted from his position as head of the party's policies committee, Al Arabiya television reported.
Without a place in the leadership, Gamal Mubarak would no longer qualify as the party's presidential candidate under the Egyptian constitution.
The outgoing leaders make up the five-man core committee in the party, including Zakaria Azmi, President Mubarak's chief of staff, party spokesman Ali el-Din Hilal and steel magnate Ahmed Ezz, who had already resigned a few days after the outbreak of the popular uprising against Mubarak.
The outgoing leaders also include the party's secretary general, Safwat el-Sherif, 77, who has been powerful in the Egyptian establishment since the 1960s and is a pillar of the old guard. Sherif is also speaker of the upper house of parliament.
The party was one of the main targets of the uprising and its headquarters near Tahrir Square was gutted during the protests.
Bilal Fathi, 22, a member of the protest movement, told Reuters on Saturday: “These are not gains for the protesters. This is a trick by the regime. This is not fulfilling our demands. These are red herrings.”
The protesters' main demand is that Hosni Mubarak leave office.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Photo: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attends an event on the progress of Middle East peace talks in the East Room of the White House in September 2010. Credit: Michael Reynolds/EPA