Where is Gamal Mubarak?

The late journalist Magdi Mehanna used to say that Gamal Mubarak has made himself into an object of guesswork. His emergence on the political scene, much like his absence, never fails to fuel questions about his political motives.

Gamal's recent disappearance from the public arena has brought Mehanna's words back to mind. News about Gamal's activities have altogether disappeared from the papers since he accompanied President Hosni Mubarak on a visit to Washington in August (with the exception of his “historic” trip last month to Mahallet Marhoum village in Gharbiya). Since then, there has hardly been any news about the president's son, nor has he been involved in any public meetings or tours in Egyptian villages.

Gamal's decision to keep a low profile in recent weeks, which stands in stark contrast to his intense public activities that coincided with the launch of a popular campaign in August supporting his nomination for president, undoubtedly raises many questions. But his moves are not easy to interpret; they are always met with much speculation and little certainty. When Gamal is under the spotlight, people say hereditary succession is underway, and when he disappears they say the scheme has been put on hold.

Though it's normal for any politician to take a break from time to time, Gamal's current state of dormancy is still worthy of attention as are his bouts of increased activity.

Egypt is currently in the midst of a heated debate about the integrity of the upcoming parliamentary elections and the ruling National Democratic Party's internal nominations. Discord is growing among opposition parties about whether or not to boycott the November race. Yet, Gamal has maintained complete silence on these issues.

Why is he absent when political activity is at its peak, even though he’s supposed to be a major player on the political scene? Does he only feel comfortable appearing in times of political calm while mysteriously retreating in times of confrontation?

Perhaps Gamal's withdrawal is connected to the almost unmistakable signs that Hosni Mubarak will run for a sixth presidential term next year, frustrating the son's hopes for the presidency. Or, having built his political agenda on promises to improve the well-being of Egyptians and to enhance the quality of public services, Gamal is perhaps too embarrassed to face the masses who are devastated by soaring food prices which have strained the already-skimpy budgets of many Egyptian households.

It seems Gamal is either giving up hope or avoiding confrontation with the people who are angry, hungry and feel increasingly embittered.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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