July 8, 2003 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 141

The Grooming of Gamal Husni Mubarak

July 8, 2003 | By Dr. N. Raphaeli*
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 141

The Arab world is going through a crisis of succession, the process by which an outgoing head of state is replaced. In the absence of a democratic process that guarantees an orderly transition of power, and with a few aging leaders who have been in power in excess of 20 years, the issue of succession in the Arab world has become very acute. In three countries - Syria, Jordan, and Morocco - the sons succeeded their fathers. In the near future, there remain three countries which will also face this problem - Egypt, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. This analysis addresses the issue of succession in Egypt where Gamal Husni Mubarak appears to be positioning himself as a possible successor to his father, President Husni Mubarak

Since his selection/election in September, 2002, as the Secretary General for Policies of the Egyptian ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), Gamal Mubarak has taken advantage of every opportunity to express his views on a range of issues, both domestic and foreign. These views have been given extensive coverage similar to that accorded in the U.S. to a president-elect. The new Secretariat for Policies was touted in a press conference held by Safwat al-Sharif, the Egyptian Minister of Information, as "the beating heart of the party and the instrument for a new thinking." [1] President Mubarak has said that he sees the elevation of his son as an opportunity to give the young generation new responsibilities. [2]

The Issue of Succession

Unlike his two predecessors, Gamal Abd Al-Naser and Anwar Al-Sadat, Husni Mubarak has refused to designate a vice president, a position which he occupied under President Al-Sadat and which catapulted him into the presidency of Egypt upon the assassination of the president. After 20 years in power and now in his 70's, Mubarak is suspected of grooming his 40 year-old son for succession. The appointment of Gamal Mubarak, a former executive at Bank of America in Cairo and London, to the senior position in the NDP has been seen as a significant step toward elevating the younger Mubarak to the pinnacle of the political pyramid. President Mubarak, whose present term expires in 2004, keeps his plans for the future to himself. In any event, the issue of succession is not discussed openly in official circles. [3] If there is one factor that would cause the father to hesitate on elevating his son to the presidency it is the Syrian model which was widely criticized in the Arab world. But there may be other factors as well, including the need to get his senior military generals, who are quite powerful, on board for a move of this significance. [4]

Candidate/Not Candidate

When the issue of succession was first debated, President Mubarak insisted that Egypt was not a monarchy and his son was not the successor to the presidency. Gamal himself denied any such ambitions. In a recent speech delivered at the American University in Cairo, Gamal denied that the creation of the Secretariat for Policies in the ruling party was "a kind of preparation for his nomination for the presidency." He added coyly, however, that while the question is not on his mind, "this subject is being debated and [he] cannot prevent anyone from debating it." [5] In his most recent visit to the U.S. as the head of a high-level delegation, the second in four months, Gamal Mubarak said he has always tried to play an active role from his current position in the ruling party and he was looking forward to working with his generation to carry out reforms and changes in various sectors of Egyptian life. [6] He happens to be the leader of two large civil societies of his generation - "The Generation of the Future" and "The Youth of the Future." [7]

Although not a government official, Gamal Mubarak has been received in Washington in a manner accorded to high government officials. On his first visit, he met with former-President Bush. A Washington Post column describing that first visit was titled: "Gorbachev on the Nile?" [8] When, in his most recent visit in June, Gamal had meetings with Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Egyptian weekly Rose El-Youssef was beside itself. An article titled "The Americans Are Dazzled by His Personality; the Visit Rectified Mistaken Conceptions" quoted one person as saying, "I have never seen an Arab personality visiting America at this level who is so advanced, alert, and cultured, or who has such an open and radiating mind." [9] Interestingly, nowhere in that same issue of Rose El-Youssef , a newsmagazine first published in 1925, was there a single reference to Gamal's father, President Husni Mubarak.

Gamal Mubarak's Views on Issues-- Reform and Change

Since his elevation to the Secretary for Policies in the National Democratic Party, Gamal Mubarak has tried to position himself to the left of his conservative father on many political, economic, and social issues.

The words "reform and change" are woven into Gamal Mubarak's thoughts about Egypt's future. In terms of programs, the two words are translated into: (a) bringing Egypt into the global economy [10] ; (b) supporting reforms in the highly bureaucratized and inefficient public sector; (c) bringing Egyptian youth into the political process; (d) increasing the role of women in politics; and (e) expanding trade, including support for the recent American initiative for a Middle Eastern free trade zone as a means of reducing a serious unemployment problem. Mubarak insists that reform and change will not start from point zero. "In terms of a lot of the pillars of a free pluralistic society, in terms of dissident views, in terms of argument and counter-argument, in terms of election on many levels, whether on the local level or the national level, we have come a long way." He has repeatedly said that reform and change in Egypt are not tied to one person but to an entire generation. [11] Gamal Mubarak has called for reforming the education system to make it more outward looking. In an unprecedented move, he also called for reform in the education system in the most venerable religious institution - the Azhar. [12]

The only change Mubarak is not prepared to consider is the way the president is elected - by plebiscite, with no opponents, rather than by free elections. This is consistent with his views that his party is "the only party qualified to lead Egypt at the present time." [13]

Gamal Mubarak has said the party will soon consider measures to reduce the emergency powers of the government under the emergency law, to abolish imprisonment with hard labor, and to create new councils for human rights. [14]

In foreign policy, he spoke against the war in Iraq. In fact, he led the largest demonstration in Cairo in the 24-year history of the ruling party,albeit a demonstration without anti-American statements or placards. [15] In an earlier statement, Gamal said Egypt would not participate in any military action against Iraq "because the Egyptian position, government and people, are in favor of a peaceful solution of the Iraqi crisis." [16] He said that peace [with Israel] has benefited economic growth activity in Egypt and, at the same time, allowed Egypt to support the Palestinian case. He called for solidarity with the Palestinian people, for the creation of a Palestinian state, and against the Judaization of Jerusalem. [17] While he sees a role for Egypt as a leader of the Arab world, he believes this leadership role can be attained only by Egypt's engagement in real reforms, rather than by merely mouthing slogans. [18]

Mubarak's Wealth

Little information is available on Gamal Mubarak's wealth but he is known to have established a private investment company with a capital of $100 million. [19] An example of influence peddling was provided in the recent issue of Rose El-Youssef involving the sale of B.M.W in Egypt. The owners, the Abu-Al-Futuh family and their partners, were asking 200 million Egyptian pounds (approximately $40 million). The buyers offered 140 million, and when the sellers refused to go below 160 million pounds, the Minister of Industry and Technology, D. Ali Al-Sa'idi, intervened, and the sellers accepted the offer of 140 million pounds. The buyers of the company were Qatari individuals (with 80 percent interest), a German company (with 15 percent), and Gamal Mubarak (with the remaining 5 percent), who has also assumed the role of chief executive of the new company, renamed as "Bavari Egypt . " [20] The intervention of the minister in a commercial transaction speaks for itself.


The general conference of the ruling party will convene next September. This will be a critical meeting since, on the agenda, are questions regarding (a) whether President Mubarak will seek a fifth five-year term as president of Egypt; and (b) whether a new candidate will be selected, either Gamal or someone else. If Husni Mubarak decides to run again, or more accurately to be selected since he runs unopposed in a plebiscite, the key question is whether he will designate a vice president and who will be anointed for that position. He will probably run to give his son at least a few more years of political seasoning.

The United States could find itself faced with a dilemma should Gamal ascend to the presidency. Committed to bringing democracy to the Middle East, the U.S. might find the creation of a new dynasty inconsistent with its intensions. It is not surprising that Gamal Mubarak may be seeking to garner American support and legitimacy by his frequent visits to the U.S. and by presenting himself both in private meetings and in public as a reliable American friend and an element of both reform and stability.

*Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program.

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), September 18, 2002.

[2] Al-Hayat (London), September 19, 2002.

[3] Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 5, 2002.

[4] See an earlier treatment of the subject of Egyptian succession in MEMRI's Inquiry and Analysis series No. 31 of July 24, 2000, and No. 32 of July 25, 2000.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 6, 2003.

[6] Al-Hayat (London), June 28, 2003.

[7] Al-Hayat (London), May 7, 2003.

[8] The Washington Post, February 10, 2003.

[9] Rose El-Youssef (Egypt), No. 3916, 28-6: July 4, 2003.

[10] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 121, "The Floating of the Egyptian Pound: Gamal Mubarak's Initiative."

[11] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 28, 2003.

[12] Al-Hayat (London), June 1, 2003.

[13] Al-Hayat (London), December 13, 2002.

[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 6, 2003.

[15] Al-Hayat (London), March 6, 2003.

[16] Al-Hayat (London), February 24, 2003.

[17] Al-Hayat (London), March 6, 2003.

[18] Al-Hayat (London), March 19, 2003.

[19] Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 5, 2002.

[20] Rose El-Youssef (Egypt), June 28/July 4, 2003, p.84.

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