Trends to watch in Egypt

I’ve been meaning to blog about specific articles on these topics but I keep procrastinating.  Here are a few trends  to watch out for in Egypt:

1) Gamal Mubarak vs Ahmed Azz:  Proving your Street Cred
Everyone assumes that Gamal is going to make a run at the Presidency, whenever that might happen.  To do so succesfully,  Mubarak  must gain a certain level of public support, which he could do.    What’s holding him back is the widespread public perception that the Egyptian government is run by corrupt self-serving millionaire businessmen.   Gamal Mubarak’s challenge is to prove his “street cred.” 

Two major NDP players and symbols of Big Business are well known to the Egyptian public.  The first is real-estate and construction mogul Talaat Mustafa, who is now on trial for the murder of Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tammem.  If he is convicted and goes to jail (he currently faces the death penalty) this would probably help Gamal Mubarak because it’s hard (or at least harder) to argue that the Fat Cats are above the law when one of the most powerful is sent to Death Row for a crime that wasn’t even committed in Egypt.  As Dia Rashwan put a few months ago “they are sacrificing a member of the family to save the family.”

The second figure is Ahmed Azz, a traditional politically ally of Gamal,  who (allegedly) monopolizes the steel industry, and  is probably the number one symbol of Fat-Catism.   Say the word monopoly in EGypt and people will think you are referring to Ahmed Azz.    Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, without saying Azz’s name, has made statements arguing that Monopolistic practices are not permitted in Islam.   Any politician trying to prove their populist credentials (anywhere in any country) will try to distance themselves from billionare industrialists.   Selling yourself as different is essential.   Al-Dostor had an article last week talking about tension between the two (looking for link).  In the future, look for Gamal Mubarak to try and sell himself as “different” as part of a future Presidential candidacy.  

2) The Lebanon File: From the Foreign Ministry to the Mukhabaret
I have heard this from many different people and sources:  the balance of power within the  Egyptian foreign policy establishment seems to have shifted in favor of  Omar Suleiman’s Mukhabaret (Intel) and not the Foreign Ministry. 

The Lebanon file is one place where this is playing out.   Al-Dostor had a recent article titled “Has the Lebanon file moved from the Conriche Al-Nile to East Cairo?  (The Egyptian version of “From Foggy Bottom to Langley).    Egypt wants to renew its role in  Lebanon.   Lebanese President Suleiman will visit Cairo next month and Egypt is trying to restore its relations with Hezbollah, which is being handled by Suleman’s people.   Al-Dostor noted how Suleiman’s number two recently paid a visit to Beirut in an effort to coordinate these meetings. 

The shift in power  is most clear on the Israel-Palestine file.  Egypt doesn’t talk to its own Muslim Brotherhood, so its very difficult politically for them to meet, at the political level, with the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood (HAMAS).  Hence, meetings between Egypt and Hamas have been almost exclusively at the Security (ie Suleiman’s people) level.

3) Dia Rashwan’s Proposal for How to Deal with the post-Mubarak political scene:
The noted Egyptian political commentator Dia Rashwan has recently put forth a political “action plan” for Egypt’s opposition.  He has some very interesting ideas which Media Shack readers will want to hear about.  Mr Egypt is currently putting together a post on this topic.  Stay tuned.

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