EGYPT: Gamal Mubarak turns to the Web
In an attempt to boost his popularity among younger generations ahead of the 2011 presidential elections, Gamal Mubarak, the son of President Hosni Mubarak, held an online interview this week with 12,000 of Egypt's Internet users.
His new forum, called Participate, was launched by Gamal Mubarak's website and invites young Egyptians to send the politician their questions and concerns. Most inquiries regarded the country's high inflation, difficult living conditions, corruption, the policies of the ruling National Democratic Party and the frequently discussed topic of who will succeed the current president.
All questions were filtered by NDP officials. The interview, which was broadcast online through a teleconference, was attended by highly ranked NDP members and ministers including minister of higher education Hani Helal.
In his answers, Gamal Mubarak said he was optimistic about Egypt's future, assuring the Web audience that people's complaints from the seemingly endless rise in prices have notably decreased. He also added that social expenses have become the government's top priority.
Despite tackling a number of issues including health, education, industry and marginalized towns in Egypt, Mubarak didn’t respond to other inquiries regarding his possible candidacy for head of state after his 81-year-old father leaves office. That, of course, is the question that has captured the nation's psyche.
There was another bit of irony in Gamal Mubarak turning to cyberspace, given that his father's government has arrested many bloggers and Facebook activists. Pundits considered the move to be contradicting of the regime's reputation of suppressing a growing online political opposition. Bloggers Karim Amer, Mosaad Abu Fagr, Ahmed Khalil, Ahmed Abu Doma and many others have been detained by authorities for their views attacking President Mubarak's policies.
The selective nature of the answered questions similarly cast many doubts on Gamal Mubarak's real aim for the interview.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Gamal Mubarak. Credit: Agence France-Presse