The New Yorker has a piece by Joshua Hammer (who parachutes around the continent writing about anything and everything) about the struggle to succeed Egypt’s 81-year president, Hosni Mubarak, who has governed for 29 years. Mubarak became president when Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic political radicals. He has looked frail in public and is in Europe now for a gallbladder operation. Mubarak’s regime has quashed opposition (BTW, his actions have contributed to the rise of rightwing political Islam in Egypt) and stays in power largely because he is a major US ally in the Middle East. (Only Israel gets more US aid with little strings attached.) In the New Yorker piece we learn that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, is the favorite to continue the family business. Gamal is in his 40s with a 20-something wife, was a C-student in college, is probably corrupt like his father, is groomed by the ruling party to take over the family business (sorry country), has a mean temper, would continue his father’s despotic ways, and Israel’s government favors him. Go figure. As for the opposition, we learn little about them, except for a focus on Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former director of the International Atomic Energy, who returned to Egypt recently and has young people and liberals in Egypt all excited (especially bloggers–a favorite constituency of Western journalists), but we hear nothing about what people outside of elites think or want. But then for Westerners, Egypt’s politics have always been about making sure your elites are in power.
– Sean Jacobs