Opponents of Gamal Mubarak ridicule posters

The son of the Egyptian president is still powerful but even some members of the National Democratic Party say he may not win the party's nomination for president.

Gamal Mubarak of the Egyptian National Democratic Party (NDP) poses at the AFP photo studio 26 January 2008 during the World Economic Forum in Davos. This year's Davos event has drawn nearly 30 heads of state or government, more than 110 cabinet ministers and several hundred corporate chiefs.  AFP PHOTO  PIERRE VERDY
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CAIRO // Magdy el Kordy is waging a one-man campaign for Gamal Mubarak's candidacy in next year's presidential elections. Mr el Kordy, 54, a technician, has plastered posters of President Hosni Mubarak's youngest son across working-class areas of the capital and vows to soon bring them to other provinces. He was a member of the leftist al Tagamu party, but was kicked out a few days ago for putting up the posters.

"I can see him completing the process after his father. I was impressed by his visits to shanty areas and his bias towards the class I and most Egyptians belong to," Mr el Kordy said. But Gamal Mubarak, who was once considered the heir apparent to Hosni Mubarak, is seen as an increasingly unpopular choice, even by the ruling party. There is a belief that those who are of Hosni Mubarak's generation are opposed to Gamal succeeding his father. Senior members in the army and the intelligence service do not want a non-military man in office, analysts have said.

The emergence of the Gamal Mubarak posters came after his disappearance from the political scene, especially since the return of Mohammed ElBaradei, 68, the former chief of the UN nuclear agency (IAEA) in February, who is seen by many here as the strongest potential presidential candidate. Mr ElBaradei's supporters, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, have collected more than 350,000 signatures on petitions to amend the Egyptian constitution so independents such as Mr ElBaradei can run in presidential elections.

Some observers say Gamal Mubarak is busy preparing for the upcoming legislative elections at end of this year. Others, such as the opposition figure Abdel Halim Qandil, say that "the succession dream or scenario is in tatters like the absurd, political begging campaign of Gamal's posters". "It seems that President Mubarak couldn't muster the consent and support of the army and intelligence for his son's succession," said Mr Qandil, a spokesman for Kefaya, or Enough, a small opposition group which in 2004 was the first to protest against the inheritance of power by Gamal.

The ruling National Democratic Party denies that it is responsible for Mr el Kordy's posters. "The posters campaign is an individual act. The ruling party has nothing to do with it," Mohammed Kamal, the secretary of training and political education in the NDP, said in a phone interview. "We don't know the guy [el Kordy] and were really surprised to see this. "It doesn't serve any purpose. The party hasn't selected its candidate for presidential elections yet," said Mr Kamel, who is a confidant of Gamal's.

Gamal Mubarak, 46, a millionaire and a former investment banker in London, returned to Egypt a decade ago to become a member of the NDP and was seen by most political observers as Hosni Mubarak's heir. Gamal Mubarak is the secretary general of the NDP's influential policy committee, and is responsible for appointing cabinet members. He is also one of the architects of the liberal economic policies the government has been adopting since 2004.

Hosni Mubarak has been in power since 1981, but his poor health has again intensified the speculation about who will succeed him. Unlike his predecessors, Hosni Mubarak never appointed a vice president, and has not yet said if he will run in next year's presidential elections, which will probably take place in Sept 2011. The NDP will choose its candidate for the presidency in May or June 2011 in a special convention, Mufid Shehab, the minister of state for legal and parliamentary affairs, said Monday in an interview with the private Egyptian television channel ON TV.

Mr Shehab's comments came just few days after Ali Eddin Helal, the chairman of the media committee in the NDP, said during a conference with university students in Alexandria that "the talk about other NDP candidates despite the presence of President Mubarak is rude". The last two weeks saw renewed talk about Hosni Mubarak's health, mainly in foreign media, and drew belated denials from the president's spokesman, Soliman Awaad.

He had his gall bladder and a growth on his intestine removed in March. The opposition leader Ayman Nour, 46, who finished a distant second to Hosni Mubarak in the country's first contested presidential election in 2005, started touring the neighbourhoods where Gamal Mubarak's posters are posted, warning people of the dangers of hereditary power and Gamal's role in Egypt's economic problems, Mr Nour told the National.

"The people are making fun of these posters," he said. He said his party is preparing its own posters that will tell a different story about Gamal. @Email:nmagd@thenational.ae