Egypt crisis: What role will Omar Suleiman play?
Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman, who addressed Egyptians after the televised speech of President Hosni Mubarak Thursday, urged Tahrir Square protesters to 'go home.' It is unclear how much power Suleiman now wields.
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"Mubarak is Pharaoh in his own mind. He’s laughingly referred to as Pharaoh all over the Arab world. I don’t think this guy [Suleiman] sees himself that way at all. I think he would see himself as public servant who would take the country toward elections," Lang says.Skip to next paragraph
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Lang argues that Suleiman would not have the stamina or the desire to become Egypt's next president. He adds, however, that Suleiman "is also not afraid to use force to put the country in order."
Having come from the military, like all Egyptian leaders since 1952, along with his tough stances on Hamas, Iran, and political Islamism, make him a popular choice with the armed forces in Egypt and the governments in Israel and US.
According to a US diplomatic cable dated May 14, 2007, titled "Presidential Succession in Egypt" and released in December by WikiLeaks, Suleiman was being groomed for succession:
"Egyptian intelligence chief and Mubarak consigliere, in past years Soliman was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post. In the past two years, Soliman has stepped out of the shadows, and allowed himself to be photographed, and his meetings with foreign leaders reported. Many of our contacts believe that Soliman, because of his military background, would at least have to figure in any succession scenario."
But would Suleiman be good enough?
While Suleiman has no time for hobbies, according to Lang, he is a voracious reader, especially of the works of Ernest Hemingway. "He's probably read everything that Hemingway ever wrote," says Lang.
And now, with Mubarak increasingly under pressure to step down, eyes are looking to him as the man who will be tasked with keeping Egypt afloat amid a sea of public unrest and demands for political reforms.
But for tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square, it’s not just Mubarak who is the problem – it’s his whole regime, including stalwarts like Suleiman.
“Yes, it’s Mubarak, but it’s the system, too,” says Ahmed Dadr, a soft-spoken student who said he was exhausted from participating in street battles with the police. “Getting rid of Mubarak and keeping the system means the revolution hasn’t succeeded.”
Staff writer Dan Murphy contributed reporting from Cairo.