CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak said in a television interview that he never discussed the issue of succession with his son Gamal but stopped short of refuting that he would succeed him.
“We have never discussed it. Nobody knows who will succeed – we have elections. When the time comes for elections, the people will vote, he said in an interview with Charlie Rose of PBS Monday night (early Tuesday morning Cairo Local Time).
Questions have emerged over how long Mubarak will stay in power now that he is 81 years old. The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2011 but there have been rumors that Mubarak will step down in favor of his son before then.
He also refused to be drawn on his own intention to run in 2011, telling Rose during the interview, which was recorded in Cairo before his US trip, “I’m not thinking about that now.
Head of the leftist-Nasserist Karama party Saad Aboud described Mubarak’s comments as a “denial that was actually a confirmation of plans for his son to succeed him.
“He said the people will decide, Aboud told Daily News Egypt, “and it is very easy to [subvert] that here, and then they will say the people decided. The definitive thing to say was that Gamal will not run for president.
“If they are honest then why do they want to eliminate judicial oversight on elections? Gamal Mubarak has a constitutional right like any citizen to run for president but not in the presence of his father, Aboud added.
Coordinator for the Kefaya Movement for Change, which opposes the political inheritance of power, Abdel-Halim Qandil told Daily News Egypt, “Everyone who knows Egypt knows that when it is said the people will decide, that means it is the president who will decide. The elections will rubberstamp the succession of Gamal as if it is a political appointment. And his presence in the Egyptian delegation to the US confirms this as Washington has a decisive say in this matter.
Mubarak also said he was not concerned about the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood and accused Rose of not fully understanding Egypt’s emergency law when queried on democratic reform. Additionally, he disagreed that any successor would need the backing of the army.
He also refuted recent rumors that parliament might be dissolved to speed up the process of Gamal taking over, but did not rule out that dissolution of the People’s Assembly may take place if the reasons warranted it.
Kefaya member and its former coordinator George Ishak told Daily News Egypt, “A child would not believe that he has never discussed it with his son. He will never talk publicly about succession but if you look at the (2007) constitutional amendments to article 76, then the matter is different.
“It is tailored for Gamal, Ishak added, “because any presidential candidate must come from the party’s higher council and new parties will not have their candidates allowed to run. He has guaranteed the succession for his son but it will be over our dead bodies.
Mubarak is currently in the US for the first time in five years to meet with US President Barack Obama. Accompanying him is Gamal, who is the head of the policies committee of the National Democratic Party and considered by many to be Egypt’s leader-in-waiting.
Political analyst Diaa Rashwan wrote in Al-Shurouk newspaper Tuesday, “Gamal’s party position does not justify his inclusion in the Egyptian delegation to the US, this is an official visit by the executive branch of government not a party delegation visiting the Democratic party of the US.
Mubarak also talked about the Middle East peace process during the Rose interview, stating that he was advocating a comprehensive final status deal now rather than the piecemeal approach of recent years.
“We have to consider the whole issue holistically, he said, “Forget about temporary because the peoples will think that this is the final step. There is some sort of agreement between (Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin) Netanyahu – and (Defense Minister Ehud) Barak also agreed – that we come to the final solution and implementation in stages.
Mubarak also said that Egypt had almost secured the released of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, only to have it fall through at the final moment by “external interventions and last-minute Israeli restrictions on the prisoner-swap deal.