CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt’s octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak, in power for 30 years and whose health has raised questions, is to run for re-election in 2011, a high-ranking ruling party official said on Thursday.
“The candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP) will be President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak. At that moment, the candidate will be Mohammed Hosni Mubarak,” Ali El Din Hilal said in an interview broadcast by Arabic-language US satellite TV channel Alhurra.
“The candidate of the National Democratic Party in October next year, God willing, will be President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak,” Hilal repeated.
Hilal, who is in charge of communications for the NDP, later told AFP the president’s candidacy was in keeping with “the will of the leadership” of the ruling party.
“He is our nominee for the presidency” in the next election, said the senior official, without elaborating, although the NDP has stressed in the past that a candidate would not be decided before the end of this year.
Mubarak, 82, has never stated whether he will run for what would be a sixth six-year term.
Political observers question whether he is up to the task, particularly after he underwent surgery in March to have his gall bladder and a duodenal polyp removed.
There has been widespread speculation that his son, Gamal, will be put forward as his potential successor.
During a visit to Italy in May, Mubarak senior replied to a question by a journalist about his possible successor by grinning, pointing upwards and saying “only Allah knows.”
Some NDP members are known to favour pushing Gamal, 46, into the presidential fray. But Gamal, who holds a senior NDP post, has never indicated whether he would like to take over what some fear could become a family dynasty.
Between now and the presidential contest, Egypt is to hold a parliamentary election on November 28, with a run-off a week later.
Thursday’s news brought mixed reactions from political analysts.
Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyed, a political science professor at the University of Cairo and the American University of Cairo, told AFP: “I believe there are many indicators pointing to President Mubarak running next year.”
He cited remarks by a number of senior political figures that they are convinced of his candidacy, and also pointed to Mubarak’s flurry of domestic and diplomatic activity in the past several months.
“That would all indicate that Mr Hilal’s statement is based on solid information,” Sayyed said, adding that those pushing a Gamal Mubarak candidacy had been quiet for several weeks now.
But Imad Gad, an analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, is sceptical.
“They are having us on,” he said. “They just don’t want to open up the presidential campaign before the legislative election” next month,” said Gad.
“There is still a year until the presidential election,” Gad said, “and noone can predict what turn the president’s health will take between now and then.”
Egypt is a key US ally in the tumultuous Middle East, and widespread dissatisfaction with government policy and the rich-poor divide are just two factors that could contribute to instability in a country of 80 million.
Sayyed pointed to pressures, both from abroad and at home, pushing Mubarak to make his intentions known.
“Investors are concerned (by uncertainty over the succession question), while there is a high degree of social tension” in the country, he said.