Egypt ruling party mum on ageing Mubarak's successor

Egypt’s ruling party wraps up its annual conference on Monday with President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal again avoiding the key question of who will succeed his father after almost 30 years in power.

During the three-day conference, National Democratic Party leaders, including former investment banker Gamal (44) sought to remedy the
party’s image as undemocratic and run by businessmen.

Asked about the possibility of succeeding his father, a move that would prove as unpopular with the Egyptian people as it would be favoured by international investors, Gamal was evasive.

“Is there a country or a party that decides on its candidate for elections three years before they take place?” he said.

“We have a political structure and a fundamental organisation inside the party, and we also have a clear constitution and legislative structure we respect.”

Egypt’s next presidential election is set for 2011, and Mubarak senior, in power since 1981, has neither said he will not run for another term nor has he appointed a vice-president who traditionally “inherits” the top job.

“The designation of a vice-president would be the clearest sign of a successor,” said Issandr El Amrani, analyst with the International Crisis Group think-tank.

Gamal is associated with the pro-liberal economic reforms that have taken place under Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif since 2004. But with Egypt’s main opposition movement consisting of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, foreign investors want reassurances on the country’s future stability.

“The question of succession is one of the biggest questions that’s faced by Egypt, by anyone interested in long-term business here, with an interest in what the country will be like in five or 10 years’ time,” said Amrani.

“Their main concern is that the trends since 2004 of pro-market reforms continue ... many would like to see Gamal as president as this would imply the continuity of these policies as well as political continuity.” - AFP

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