Speaking of Next Presidents…..

Who says election cycles are long only in America?  In Egypt, Presidential elections are scheduled for 2011 and people are already planning.   But unlike America, what’s going to happen in Egypt is far more difficult to read.

Here’s what we know:  According to  Michelle  Dunne, if the stipulated constitutional procedures are followed, the most likely future President is Gamal Mubarak.  For example, each party’s Presidential Candidate must have served one year in a position of high party leadership and within the NDP there are only a few who would meet this requirement, which,  at least technically, rules out a candidate from the armed forces. 

However, in recent speeches, articles and interviews, Dia Rashwan, one of Egypt’s top commentators, has put forth several critical points of note:

1) A United Opposition Against Inheritance (Tawreeth);  Rashwan is calling for all opposition parties (defined as anyone not affiliated with NDP) to unite and reach a common anti-Tawreeth position. 

2) Next President Will Come From Army:  Rashwan predicts and supports this.  Contrary to common Western perceptions, Egyptians do not hate their government, but are not  happy with its performance.   In Egypt, the armed forces are prestigious, highly respected and seen as the nation’s caretaker.  In this context, Rashwan is not calling for more military dictatorship, but rather he sees the military as the sole institution that can put Egypt back on a Democratic track.

Points of Note: (from interview in Al-Dostor 11/5, p.4)
– Gamal Mubarak’s chances are weak because in Egypt the military is the chief source of power and Gamal has no connection to the military.  His chief source of power is his father (who will only be around for so long) …  President Mubarak has not given any indication that he wants his son to be President.  Since 2003 we have been talking about a struggle between the New and Old Gaurds within the NDP.  If there was a clear sign that President Mubarak wanted his son to be the next President, these struggles would not have occurred. .. The only clear sign is that he is not the next President but the son of the current President who practices politics. 

– Who supports Gamal within NDP?: 
The biggest businessmen are neutral and not linked to Gamal Mubarak.  He  has the support of a small number of businessmen who are connected to him personally and have benefited financially from this relationship. 

What about point 72 of the Constitution requiring one year of high party service?  Doesn’t this eliminate an armed forces candidate? 
If the armed forces decided to run a candidate they could probably get the necessary 250  signatures from the NDP and MPs (to get around that rule) .  On the possibility of an armed forces candidate coming from within the NDP, Rashwan notes that only two (Safwat Al-Shareef and Zakarias Azmi) have high level military experience… He also rules out possibility that army would support Gamal if he agreed to certain conditions, noting how hard it would be for them to ensure them once he took office.

I think Rashwan’s analysis is correct and have heard the same thing from other big name Egyptian commentators.  The big question, therefore,  is “how much power does Gamal Mubarak lose the minute he is not son of the President?”  One major Egyptian intellectual puts it at 95%.  If this correct, he has little chance of becoming President. 

I have argued in previous posts that Gamal Mubarak has the ability to gain enough public support to become the President.  He will have the support of some, such as the Copts, irregardless.  If he is perceived by the people as a serious reformer, he could gain popualr support, or at least, would not face widespread public opposition.   Perhaps this is why Rashwan is making such a push to have the opposition parties take a united stand against Inheritance.

To reveal or not to reveal?

What should we do in Iraq? What should are policy towards Iran be?  Ask any of the top experts these questions in DC over the past two years and in many cases you were likely to get vague and useless answers. 

Helene Cooper of the NY TIMES   looks at the unwillingness of those angling for positions in the Obama administration (and it would have been the same thing for McCain)  to make any public statements on the critical issues.  Each candidate had a team of advisors, but these people weren’t doing this for charity.  They expect their advice and support to be rewarded with positions of influence.  The flip side is that they are unwilling to say anything useful for fear of damaging their chances:

Few people took note, what with the focus on the election campaign, but many of those aspiring to join an Obama foreign policy team showed their hands by turning silent over the summer on just about anything that might get them in trouble in a confirmation hearing.

Take the Russian invasion of Georgia, for example, an action that raised all sorts of complicated questions. But in Congress, at universities and at research institutes, would-be Democratic secretaries of state and national security advisers sought to navigate that potential minefield by following the same cautious script.

They condemned Russia (without proposing specific punishment). They proclaimed heartfelt support for President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, the congressional darling (without any questioning whether he was culpable in inviting the attacks). And they publicly voiced strong backing for Georgia’s entry into NATO, a possibility that most of these same foreign policy experts acknowledge privately is as likely as a warm winter in Moscow.

“At a time when we really needed penetrating, thoughtful foreign policy analysis about what we should be doing towards Russia, all the people who work on this and wanted to be in the next administration were saying nothing but domestic political posturing,” said George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who makes clear that he is not seeking a job in the next White House. “They were all protecting themselves and positioning themselves for confirmation hearings.”

The article is correct on everything but the timing.   It started with the beginning of the campaign, not the summer.   In its early stages, I signed up for a course on US National Security  at a certain well-known university, thinking that with the Professor’s background, I would get some serious “insider-analysis.”  Wrong.   The professor spoke only in the broadest of strokes, refusing to say anything useful about contemporary US security issues, which led me to wonder if he was running for office.   Earlier this year I realized he sort of was when I read a NY TIMES article which said he is one of Obama’s top advisors, though he never revealed this during the course, which was a waste of time and money.   

Here’s my question:  Do those who are professing to provide expertise on a region or field have an obligation to reveal if they are affiliated with a certain campaign?  It seems to me that they should.