Presidential candidate Omar Suleiman
The BBC Today carries an interesting story about the forces competing for the succession of Hosni Mubark, the 82-year old present president who is believed to be ill. The BBC reports that Egyptian newspapers reporting about an new poster campaign in favour of general Omar Suleiman, the director of Egyptian intelligence, were banned. According to the BBC's Magdi Abdul Hadi on Friday thousands of copies of the independent newspapers Al Masry al Youm and Al-Dustour have been seized and destroyed. No other paper carried the news on Friday.The campaign in favour of Suleiman is in clear reaction to the way in which Gamal Mubarak, the 47-ear old son of Mubarak is being promoted. This week the younger Mubarak accompanied his father on a trip to Washington where he attended the beginning of a new round of peace talks between the Israeli prime minister Benjmin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. The younger Mubarak, who is far from popular to say it mildy, holds a position within the leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Offically, however, he is not a candidate for his father's succession. In fact the NDP maintains that Mubarak sr is their only candidate in next year's presidential elections. Yet the people who campaign for Gamal are allowed to campaign freely, whereas others like supporters of the former director of the Atomic Energy organization of the UN, Mohammed El-Baradei, are regularly harassed by the police.
The promotion of Omar Suleiman as a candidate is a new development, although, he was seen by many one of the possble contenders, as he is considered to be one of Egypt's most powerful figures. The posters (see picture)showed Gen Suleiman in dark sunglasses with a raised arm as if waving to the crowd. It carried the slogan: 'The real alternative'. It is not known who are the people behind the campaign, but according to the the BBC they issued a statement in which they said that general Suleiman as a widely respected figure within the ruling establishment as well as the opposition and the only one who is able to thwart attempts to have Mubarak succeeded by his son.
Update: The succession front is in full swing anyway, because in another development the newspaper El Dustour reported that Mohammed El Baradei has complained that the governement has posted photos on Facebook to discredit him and his family. The pictures, some 30 of them, were posted under the title of 'Secrets of the family El Baradei' and showed his daughter in swimsuit on the beach and at occassions were clearly bottles of alcoholic beverages were present. Alcohol is, of course, forbidden under the Islam and swinsuits are not in all Egyptian circles perceived as modest. It was clearly an attempt to paint the family El Baradei as unislamic, which is not exactly a recommandation in Egypt, particularly among simple people, the majority of Egytians. As far as that is concerned the campaign follows up on an attack of several months earlier in the official (=pro-Mubarak) weeky Al Mussawar. The cover of that issue - see the picture on top of this paragraph - reads in translation: 'El-Baradei Pasha, enemy of labourers and peasants'.
(Note: already the use of the addition of the old-fashioned title of 'Pasha' was meant to underscore the 'elitist' character of candidate El Baradei)