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The President and his Vice President.

Byline: Mohammad Salah

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has recovered from the surgery he underwent at a German medical center to have his gallbladder removed, and within a few days he will return to his country to resume the tasks of his high office. It is true that the transparency with which Egyptian authorities have dealt with the President's illness has dispelled rumors and prevented the media from coming up with interpretations by inventing its own stories and tales with the motive of thrilling the audience or competing for a scoop. Yet it is also true that the news was met with great concern by the international media of course, not just because Mubarak is the President of the largest Arab country, but also because questions over the future of the regime in Egypt have been put forth for years, the answers to which were not convincing for everyone, whether for those who are on the lookout for the regime's mistakes or even for those from among the regime's very supporters who are concerned about the future of the country.

The news of Mubarak delegating his powers to his Prime Minister Doctor Ahmed Nazif was nothing new, as this is the second time the Egyptian President has resorted to this measure, the first having been in June 2004, when he underwent cartilage surgery and entrusted then Prime Minister Doctor Atef Ebeid with the powers of the President of the Republic. It is noteworthy that Ebeid left his office one month later, in ministerial changes that resulted in appointing Nazif to the office of Prime Minister.

Under Abdel Nasser and later President Anwar Sadat, the Vice President would be entrusted with the President's powers in case of his absence for any reason, nevertheless after a similar presidential decision to entrust him with the President's powers. However, as Mubarak has never appointed a Vice President throughout the period of his rule since 1981, the exceptional measure results in elevating the Prime Minister to assume Presidency of the Republic temporarily until the President's return. Doubtless the political turmoil that Egypt has been witnessing since the beginning of the third millennium, the rising tone of demands for change and political reform - which have led to amending the 1971 constitution when Mubarak in 2005 called on citizens to vote in a referendum to make selecting the President take place through direct free elections between several candidates instead of the system of referendum that was practiced before - as well as media outlets discussing the names of figures they consider to be fit for the presidency, demands for further constitutional amendments to reduce restrictions on the process of candidacy, are all factors that have increased discussions over the presidential elections scheduled next year. And certainly the rate of discussions increases every time the President falls ill, even if his illness is benign. To face the names being put forth in the media, which include former Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Doctor Mohamed El-Baradei, who inaugurated at the end of last month with a number of his supporters a campaign to demand amending the constitution, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headed by Mubarak has not yet frankly announced the name of its candidate to the presidential elections. Nevertheless, it was noteworthy that some journalists considered, in articles they recently published, that the speech given by Mubarak in the city of Beni Suef which he visited last week represents his hew program, which would suggest that the party has settled on once again putting forth Mubarak as candidate for a new term at the coming presidential elections, and that what was put forth at Beni Suef is not a working program but an electoral program for another term in office.

These might merely be journalistic interpretations, yet their appearance in nationalist newspaper has increased the conviction that the Egyptian President intends to run as candidate again, and that talk of the National Party's intention to put forth Gamal Mubarak as candidate to the presidency is only a matter of predictions that have remained in minds, on pages or on screens, without ever becoming a reality. Nevertheless, the issue of the Vice President remains in question, in spite of reservations over it voiced by the majority of parties to the political game. Indeed, Mubarak has justified not appointing a Vice President by saying that he wanted not to impose a future President on the Egyptian people. Similarly, the majority of opposition forces consider that the Vice President would be the next President, whatever the nature of the competition with the remaining candidates, and thus that not appointing a Vice President is a democratic measure. But as long as the concern remains and demands for more democracy continue, the presence of a Vice President has become an urgent matter until further democratic progress is achieved that would relieve the anxiety and put an end to the debate over the future.

2009 Media Communications Group

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Mar 8, 2010
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