CAIRO, (AP) – An Egyptian-American dissident and former advocate against heredity succession in Egypt has signed a petition backing the president’s son to run in next year’s elections.
Sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim gained prominence for being one of the first to criticize a trend toward sons succeeding their fathers in the Middle East in 2000, which earned him the ire of the regime and a three year court battle to stay out of prison.
“I signed (the petition) to support his right as a citizen to run, but I don’t endorse him,” Ibrahim said in a brief comment to the Associated Press on Monday while getting ready to board a flight to the United States.
Ibrahim’s apparent reversal has stunned the opposition which has coalesced around the issue of stopping the president’s son from succeeding his father.
The petition Ibrahim signed on Sunday is part of a campaign to nominate the 46-year-old investment banker-turned-politician even while President Hosni Mubarak himself has not said if he will serve another term.
The signatories of the petition “authorize” Gamal Mubarak to nominate himself for the presidency and represent all Egyptians.
Magdy el-Kurdi, the coordinator of the new pro-Gamal campaign, described Ibrahim’s endorsement as “a positive change in his position toward Gamal.”
“Dr. Saad used to say that nomination means heredity succession, now he says if Gamal secures popular support, this won’t be hereditary,” said el-Kurdi, a previously unknown member of a left-wing opposition.
After Ibrahim criticized apparent efforts by Mubarak to secure the presidency for his son in interviews and articles in 2000, he was charged with embezzlement and tarnishing the image of the country.
Over a period of three years he battled the charges in a string of court cases and was imprisoned twice until his final exoneration in 2003.
The U.S. administration criticized his incarceration and the issue became a sore point between the two governments.
According to el-Kurdi, Ibrahim’s move will give a boost to his campaign, known as the “the Popular Coalition to Support Gamal Mubarak for Presidential Elections,” which emerged out of the blue last month, covering the streets of lower income neighborhoods with pro-Gamal posters.
El-Kurdi said so far 100,000 signatures supporting Gamal’s candidacy have been collected.
The campaign is widely believed to be a trial balloon by certain factions of the ruling National Democratic Party testing Gamal’s popularity ahead of a possible presidential run.
Hassan Nafaa, coordinator for opposition movement which is backing the nomination of Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of atomic watchdog, condemned Ibrahim’s move.
“He’s either lost his mind or there is a deal with the ruling regime,” he told AP. “This is a miserable fall for Saad and no one is going to believe him anymore.”
Ibrahim has also signed ElBaradei’s petition calling for constitutional changes to open up the political process so that more people can participate, but Nafaa said there was a major difference between the two measures.
“The opposition are deprived of the right to run while Gamal’s door is open in front of him and running for elections is just up to him and to his father,” he said.