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EGYPT: Campaign supporting intelligence chief for president aborted

September 4, 2010 |  8:24 am

100903101546_omar_soliman_226_170In what became known as the posters/cyber war among supporters of potential candidates for the 2011 presidential elections in Egypt, the chief of intelligence Omar Suleiman appeared as the latest figure urged to succeed Hosni Mubarak.

Thursday and early hours of Friday witnessed the plastering of posters with Suleiman's photo and the slogan "a real alternative" in a number of neighborhoods across Cairo.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a security official told the Associated Press that city workers were ordered to remove all of the posters less than 24 hours after they had appeared.

Additionally, independent daily newspaper Al Masry Al Youm was ordered to destroy nearly 30,000 copies of its late edition that included coverage of the campaign. "The printing house of a state-owned newspaper refused to print another batch of Al Masry Al Youm until news of the campaign was pulled from the front page," a newspaper official, also speaking on condition of anonymity said.

Waves of ongoing efforts in support of former United Nations nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei, opposition activist Ayman Nour and most recently President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, have sprung up around Egypt. The campaign supporting Suleiman has been endorsed by a group calling itself the Popular Campaign in Support of Omar Suleiman as president of Egypt.

While promoting the likes of ElBaradei and Nour has been tolerated, it seems that Mubarak's regime wanted to put a swift and early end to any voices calling for Suleiman as a president. It was the first time in years that an independent media outlet was forced not to cover a certain event in Egypt.

Despite the publishing ban, the campaign, which also created a Facebook group, managed to issue a statement that was circulated by Egyptian online media on Thursday. It stressed that Egypt is currently passing through a milestone in its history and that it is imperative the nation chooses its upcoming leader correctly.

"Amidst what is being speculated regarding President Hosni Mubarak's health and with the 2011 elections approaching and the existence of a government-backed campaign to promote Gamal Mubarak as his father's sole substitute, we believe that the only way to face such succession plan is through a strong figure, who is part of the regime and can pose himself as a transitional reforming alternative," the statement read.

The statement said the only way Egypt could achieve real democracy was through a transitional period during which Suleiman serves as president and carries out reforms that would secure a free and fair political practice, as well as an upgraded constitution.

Members of the campaign in support of Suleiman, who have yet to reveal their names, have confirmed that their newly born campaign has been blocked by the government.

Born in 1939, Suleiman became chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services in 1993. Bucking the longtime trend of of keeping spy chiefs' names unknown to the public, Suleiman's identity was revealed in 2000 when he started mediating Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in addition to representing Mubarak at a number of international conferences and events.

Since then, he has been regarded by many Egyptians as the perfect candidate -– from within the regime -- to replace Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Known for his unconditional loyalty to Mubarak, Suleiman has never admitted to any political ambitions further than his current post.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Posters supporting Omar Suleiman in the streets of Cairo before they were removed. Credit: BBC