Egyptian regime, bracing for succession, secures near lock on parliament
The US ally is moving in a more authoritarian direction ahead of an impending presidential succession. In recent elections marred by fraud, the ruling party captured a near monopoly on parliament.
Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt
Arriving at the dilapidated central train station in Alexandria, weary travelers are greeted by a wall of political campaign posters as they emerge into the exhaust fumes and crumbling glories of an ancient city once venerated as the world's premier seat of learning.Skip to next paragraph
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The posters urge a man who isn't on the ballot for parliament, and says he's not running for president in next year's election, to take the reins of the Arab world's largest country.
His name is Gamal Mubarak.
The investment banker turned politician is the son of and potential successor to President Hosni Mubarak, who has stood at Egypt's helm longer than any leader since the 19th century. But with Mubarak now 82 years old, Egypt – a country the United States relies on to advance its own agenda in the Middle East – is entering a fraught era of transition in which it appears to be shedding even the pretense of democratic progress.
In an exercise widely seen as a dress rehearsal for September 2011 presidential polls, Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) expanded its control of the legislature to a near monopoly in recent parliamentary elections, leaving the country's opposition groups in tatters.
Final results for the tightly controlled elections released this week showed the NDP winning 83 percent of the vote. But when parliament sits, various businessman and regional powerbrokers who ran as independents in search of immunity from prosecution and other perks of office are expected to join the NDP, which analysts say could push its share of parliament to close to 97 percent.
Outside analysts criticized the vote as the most fraudulent in decades and said it has defined a political system in which the 80 million citizens of the Arab world's largest country have no say in how they are ruled.
"This was unprecedented in Egypt. Embarrassingly blatant rigging. They've tried up until now to give a sense of competition and opposition involvement," says Shadi Hamid, research director at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "I think it's fair to say this was one of the most rigged elections in Egyptian history, at least since 1952."