Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 October 2009
Issue No. 969
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Yes and no

Opposition forces started to take action against what they expect to be an inevitable power succession scenario, reports Mona El-Nahhas

Ayman Nour

Opposition figures gathered at the Cairo Downtown headquarters of the liberal Ghad Party on 14 October to announce the beginning of a campaign the avowed aim of which is to halt the bequeathing of the office of president. The event was transmitted via loudspeakers and a large TV screen to people walking through one of Cairo's busiest squares.

Ayman Nour, Ghad Party founder and a campaign member, began inviting opposition figures to attend two weeks before the event. Members of the campaign, who include liberals, academics, leaders from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and human rights activists, are seeking to prevent President Hosni Mubarak's son Gamal, 45, from succeeding his father.

Gamal Mubarak has seen to become increasingly influential in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) over the last decade and now heads the party's powerful Policies Committee. Many suppose his meteoric rise through party ranks is part of his being groomed for the highest office in the land, that of president, something both father and son have repeatedly denied.

Earlier campaign members held a preparatory meeting at the headquarters of Karama -- a party that has yet to be granted a licence -- to decide the broad outlines of the proposed movement.

Political analyst Hassan Nafaa, the campaign's general coordinator, insists the public should first know who the campaign members are.

"It is not Ayman Nour's campaign. Nour is just one of the campaign members," Nafaa told Al-Ahram Weekly on Tuesday morning. The decision to meet at the Karama Party's premises was taken, he said, to underline the point.

"Tuesday's meeting was called for to define our main goals and the tools we will use in achieving them," Nafaa said. "This is not a personal battle against Gamal Mubarak, but a battle against an entire political system."

The campaign kicked off on 14 October, the 28th anniversary of President Mubarak's inauguration in 1981, under the banner "He Should Not Rule", Mayohkomsh in Arabic, a slogan viewed by some as improper. Campaign members are now considering changing the title.

"We should pick a name which gives hope to Egyptians, like Rebuilding Egypt or For a better future. We haven't made a final decision yet," Nafaa said.

Nafaa, a professor of political science, is respected for his independent views and analyses and his selection as the campaign's coordinator could help reassure the public that the campaign will not be used as a springboard for possible presidential candidates.

Nour has often been criticised by other opposition leaders for seeking to promote himself rather than political reform.

"Our constitution is that of a republic not a monarchy" said Nour, who came second to President Mubarak in Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential poll, held in 2005. He was released from prison last February on health grounds after spending nearly three years behind bars on forgery charges.

Leaders of the three main opposition parties -- Wafd, Tagammu and Nasserist -- have so far refused to take part in the campaign and refrained from sending any representatives to last week's launch. Some have accused Nour of seeking the limelight while others said they could participate in the campaign only after securing the approval of their parties.

Nabil Zaki, a member of the leftist Tagammu Party, said that while his party strongly opposes any inheritance scenario it had its own channels to make its opinions known.

In response to the campaign some members of the NDP have called for Gamal Mubarak to be nominated as the party's candidate in the upcoming presidential poll in an Internet counter campaign Awzeeno or "we want him."

"Yes, we support Gamal, because he is the best person to rule Egypt," said Mustafa Badawi, an NDP member.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif denied last month suggestions that the party would select its candidate for the 2011 presidential poll during its annual conference, due to convene on 30 October. President Mubarak, who has never appointed a vice-president during his almost three decade rule, has yet to make public whether or not he intends to seek a sixth six-year term.

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