By Ali Younes
Mohammad Hosni Mubarak, former Air Force General became president of Egypt after the assassination of President Mohammad Anwar Al Sadat by Muslim extremists on 6 October 1981. President Mubarak, as a result, became the longest serving president of Egypt since Mohammad Ali Pasha, who ruled Egypt from 1805-1849.
Mubarak’s rule, since he assumed power nearly 30 years ago, has been characterized by his authoritarian grip on power and his reliance on Emergency laws to govern Egypt and curtail civil liberties and personal freedoms. Under the “state of emergency” his government has the right to detain and imprison individuals virtually for no reason. This device is used by the government to mainly attack the Muslim Brotherhood and any other political party and deny them to formally participate in the elections. In using the Muslim Brotherhood as a “scarecrow” to counter pressure from the US or the European Union to end the emergency laws and allow democratic reform to take place in Egypt, the Mubarak regime was able to hold on power for such a long time amid wide spread accusations of corruption and government oppression.
A Country in Decline
Mubarak regime almost since its genesis after the assassination of former president Sadat has been dependent on US political, economic and military support. According to the latest reports on Egypt by the Congressional Research Services, “Egypt under the Mubarak regime has been a country in decline.” Though, the US strategic objectives in the region view Egypt as key element in securing the US security interest in the region; the Egyptian role, however, is in tandem with that of Israel whereby Egypt functions as a junior partner for the US and Israel as far keeping the Camp David treaty intact.
Moreover, the Egyptian role is instrumental to prevent another regional conflict from taking place and in the process, therefore, ensuring a US strategic objective which is to remove Egypt from the Middle East theater as a potential threat to Israel.
As a reward for Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, Egypt enjoyed US largesse of foreign aid alongside Israel, of about $1.8 billion annually, though not as much as Israel’s $3 billion, and markedly without the preferential treatment Israel gets from the US governments and the US Congress.
The Egyptian Economy
Under Mubarak, Egypt population almost doubled to 80 million people strong, from just 43 million when Mubarak took office 1981. Poor economic planning and widespread corruption led to general decline of the Egyptian state in terms of stature as a former leader in Africa and among the Third World countries, to a country that cannot influence its own backyard in Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea or help the Palestinians cope with Israeli unchecked political and military supremacy in the region.
Several African states that share the Nile with Egypt decided, most recently, to sign a treaty without Egypt or Sudan which would allocate to them more of the Nile waters at the expense of Egypt which according to 1956 treaty, when Egypt commanded the respect and was the leader of the African and the Third world countries; allocated the majority of the Nile river waters toward Egypt’s needs. The new treaty if it takes hold, will threaten the existence of Egypt as a viable state in the region.
According to the World Bank estimates for 2009, Egypt a country 80 million people, has its total estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at about 188 billion USD ranking 41 in the world, behind Israel, a country of only 7 million people whose GDP is about 195 billion USD and ranks 36 in the world. The average annual income of an Egyptian citizen is less than $6000.00 per year compared with almost 280000 in Israel. Israel not only beats Egypt in economic numbers such as world and regional economic ranks, but also political and military strength. Egypt lack of transparency and democracy bred a culture of corruption and stagnation and therefore prohibited real economic growth and political stability.
The Future of Egypt
As a result, the projection for the future of Egypt looks very bleak. When compared to the regional powers such as Turkey or Iran, Egypt is no match to either one. Turkey for example is the only modern economy in the entire region and ranks 17th in the world, and the only true fighting force and modern army by NATO standards and a rising international power. Iran, though forced to pay more attention to US threatening gaze which forces it to divert more resources to counter it, it is nevertheless a country on the rise economically and military on the regional level.
Egypt, therefore, will most likely continue to remain an American vassal state or fall in the Russian sphere of influence.
The Next President?
Mubarak authoritarian rule led to wide spread charges of corruptions against him personally and his family, particularly his sons, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak. Egyptian civic groups and political parties accuse the Mubarak regime of attempting to install his son Gamal Mubarak after the elder Mubarak had passed from the scene. Even though the government denies such charges, clues emerged in the past few months that suggest Mubarak is trying to place his son in the top tier of the leadership ladder of his own National Democratic Party. When an Italian newspaper asked Mubarak during a trip to Italy earlier this year about the next president of Egypt; Mubarak answer was “Only God’s knows that.”
Mubarak supporters argue that Egypt population problems hampered growth and that Mubarak regime had kept Egypt’s Islamic fundamentalist groups from taking power and otherwise, slide Egypt further into political, military and economic marginalization. In supporting the continuation of Mubarak policies, supporters are hoping to see the alliance between the oligarchs, the army and the Mubarak family as represented by his two sons and his wife Suzan Mubarak.
The oligarchs, who control key Egyptian industries and among the wealthiest in the world, and in partnership with army and the security apparatus will want to ensure the installation of Gamal Mubarak or someone similar as the inheritor and the guarantor of the continuation of the “Ancien Régime.”
– Ali Younes is a writer and a Middle East analyst based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.