Mubarak for Life?
Reports from Egypt indicate that Hosni Mubarak should easily waltz into a fourth term as Egypt's president on Sunday when Egyptians go to the polls in what amounts to a "yes/no" confidence vote. Judging from the masses of posters and portraits in support of Mubarak flooding the streets and storefronts of Cairo, another six years of Mubarak is all but a fait accompli.
It is not uncommon for a people to become attached to a charismatic leader. The United States, for example, might very well have a Lenin-style shrine to Franklin Roosevelt in Washington had he not died in office. But in the Muslim world the fixation with political leadership has taken on almost grotesque proportions. Egypt is a prime example.
A recent Agence France Presse report described banner slogans in Cairo such as: "Yes to Mubarak, president for life" and "God gave three gifts to Egypt: the Pyramids, the Nile and Mubarak." Mubarak may be partly responsible for an economic turnaround in Egypt, but it's a stretch to consider him a gift from God and the thousands of Muslims who languish in Egyptian prisons must cringe at the thought of him being president for life.
Mubarak however, is living on borrowed time. He would not enjoy such "popularity" were it not for the United States and the IMF. And he would not hold the type of control he has were it not for his heavy-handed tactics with Muslim and other opposition groups; tactics of which Amnesty International has been highly critical. So the massive outpouring of support in the streets of Cairo can be attributed more to popular fear than actual popularity. And it cannot be forgotten that a certain amount of brainwashing takes place when Mubarak's face is everywhere and little children are writing supportive campaign slogans.
In some parallel universe there actually is a technical procedure to bring forth a new candidate for president. Indeed, if there were a groundswell of support for an opposition party and enough opposition members actually became members parliament, then they could forward a new candidate. But that is as likely to happen in Egypt as light escaping a black hole. Voter fraud and political scare tactics should keep the current balance of power in place for some time.
So six more years of Mubarak is what Egyptians can expect. That means the same thing it meant six years ago: watching the clock of his administration slowing tick and awaiting the day when some truly effective change will come to Egypt. And it also means that Mubarak will continue to suppress the only political opposition that could threaten him: the true Islamic political entities.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com
Topics: Egypt, Hosni Mubarak