At 75 he is the longest-serving President in Egypt’s history, but after 22 years of rule President Hosni Mubarak is increasingly isolated and ailing. Popular anger is rising in the face of his resistance to introducing democratic reform, while he also faces pressure from Washington. Meanwhile senior security officials want to restrain his 42-year-old son Gamal – an international banker-turned-number two in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) – from succeeding to the Presidency. On New Year’s Day, Mubarak told state television: ‘The regime of Egypt is a republican regime and there is no inheritance of power.’ His son’s chief rival for the succession is intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman. While Egypt is usually run by generals, Gamal Mubarak has a solid party base and is rumoured to be the protégé of British New Labour’s temporarily unemployed spin doctor Peter Mandelson, infamous for grooming Tony Blair for power.
This is not the only battle for succession in the country’s political ranks: Ma’moun al-Hodeiby, head of Egypt’s increasingly popular radical Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, died on 9 January 2004. His potential successors are divided between old-guard traditionalists and those who follow the more democratic model of Turkey’s governing Islamic party. The Brotherhood, officially banned, is nevertheless the main opposition force in the country.