The US role in choosing Egypt’s next president

Many Egyptians feel that US intervention in their country’s affairs has steadily increased since the Nasserist era. The US role in Egypt started to grow under former President Anwar al-Sadat. Since President Hosni Mubarak came to power,  American influence has expanded like never before and Washington’s demands have been met in almost all areas of state policy. The notable exception has been US calls for democratic reform in Egypt, which have either been entirely ignored, subject to negotiations or met with apparent concessions by the Egyptian regime.

Mostafa al-Fiqqi, a leading member of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), recently said that Egypt’s next president will have to be approved by the US and avoid an Israeli veto. His statement was right on the mark.

Today, American influence in Egypt is very extensive, according to experts. Many believe the FBI is privy to the tiniest details about what is going on in the country. They say the US manages the Egyptian economy, determines its agricultural policies, arms the Egyptian government when needed, helps restructure the Egyptian education system, and will play and important role in choosing the next president.

Israel, on the other hand, does not hold direct influence over succession in Egypt, but it certainly has leverage over the US position. Israel is the closest American ally in the region, and the two countries share common regional and security interests. Israel is able to put heavy pressure on US leaders, especially ones with weak domestic support. If the US has significant influence over Egypt's political decisions, so does Israel indirectly.

Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son and the man many believe is being groomed for the presidency, should be an acceptable candidate for the Americans. He’s a graduate of the American University in Cairo, worked at an American bank before becoming involved in politics, speaks fluent English, and is surrounded by business elites with close ties to the US.

Israel, one would expect, should not have any objections either. Gamal would most probably pursue the same regional policies as his father and uphold the benefits Israel presently enjoys from its bilateral relationship with Egypt, including discounted gas exports and preferential trade agreements.

If everything appears to be in place for the transfer of power to Gamal, why does President Mubarak seem to be getting cold feet?

The Americans are wary that hereditary succession may spark popular unrest that can eventually bring to power a leader less in line with the US and Israeli agenda. Mubarak harbors the same fears. During his latest visit to the US, Gamal may have attempted to calm US leaders’ fears of such repercussions should he take power. But nobody knows if the US gave him the green light.

Foreign intervention does not enable democracy, it often stifles it. The only way for a genuine democracy to emerge in Egypt is if Egyptians can choose their president freely.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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