By Eric Frenkil
In case you haven’t heard, Egyptian protesters are fighting to overthrow their president, Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981. Plainclothes police offers mounted on horseback and camels are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. The protesters, who for the most part do not belong to any organized group, are pushing back with makeshift metal shields in phalanx formation. That is the situation on the street right now. Read through the article “Revolution Ignites Egypt, Arab World” for the full scoop.
Having lived in Egypt briefly, my eyes are, naturally, glued to media reports. Many people have been asking who I think will be the next leader of Egypt. The best I can do is offer insights on some of the key players. These are good names to learn, even if it’s just to sound super smart in class during a discussion of the events in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood – People keep asking me if they’re about to take power. Nope. They are powerful but still just one of many factions. In fact, the Brotherhood has been ‘keeping it secular’ on the whole by maintaining a populist message that Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority can participate in. They have internal leadership issues anyhow.
Hosni Mubarak – Most Egyptians were born after the 82-year old authoritarian president came to power in 1981. While Hosni has agreed not to run again for president, he is still inciting unrest on the streets and saying that he must stay until the September electionsd to maintain order. I doubt that the riots will cease until Hosni steps down.
Gamal Mubarak – Son of the president, economist Gamal has been groomed to succeed his father. Unfortunately a father-son transfer of power would be fairly silly during a revolution. Only a living Hosni could put Gamal in power, and only if the riots settle. However, he is disliked by Egypt’s powerful military faction and probably faked his service.
Omar Suleiman – Suleiman has been Mubarak’s trusted intelligence chief since 1991, and once saved the president’s life, but is not a fan of Gamal. He developed a lucrative intelligence relationship with the US, and has played a key role in Israel/Palestine talks. As of Saturday, he is the first vice president in Egypt in the last three decades.
Hussein Tantawi – Defense Minister Tantawi has been called “Mubarak’s poodle.” He technically heads the army but his mid-level officers despise him. He would be a puppet leader of Suleiman or someone else with real power, and is also not fond of Gamal.
Mohamed ElBaradei – Former head of the UN atomic agency (1997-2008), ElBaradei won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Rumors about his presidential ambitions have circulated since 2009. Currently under house arrest and calling for Mubarak to step down, he could unite the opposition groups (including the Muslim Brotherhood). ElBaradei regained his street cred by protesting. He’s the only obvious choice not currently employed by Mubarak, besides Ayman Nour.
Ayman Nour – Hosni Mubarak had Nour imprisoned in 2005 for what is widely understood to be political reasons. He was released in 2009 for health reasons. Who knows what happened in between? Founder of the El Ghad opposition party, Nour’s platform has been focused on democratization and human rights. He was attacked recently after announcing presidential ambitions.
Amr Moussa – Arab League Secretary-General Musa has been an Egyptian diplomat since 1958. His diplomatic credentials would require an entire article. Many have begged him to run. He remains noncommittal, but I say it’s probably so he doesn’t get jailed and/or tortured. With Hosni and Gamal out of the picture, he could reemerge. The real question is how legitimate he will be seen as in the eyes of the revolutionaries. Was he protesting? I don’t know, but the people will want to find out.
What do I expect will happen? The president will hand over power to Omar Suleiman while Gamal Mubarak is quietly angry from his vantage point in London. If the government falls, Mohamed ElBaradei is the natural choice of the crowds. Noor might run in an election; Moussa only if he feels protected. The US will accept any of them. In short, I predict that Omar Suleiman or Mohamed ElBaradei will lead Egypt.