The Obama administration had voiced much concern in advance of Egypt's parliamentary elections, accusing the Mubarak government of rigging the vote and suppressing the opposition to guarantee a ruling National Democratic Party, NDP victory.
But the results of the 2010 parliamentary election were too good to be true – even for President Hosni Mubarak. After the second round of voting Sunday, Dec. 5, the ruling NDP netted a sweeping 439 seats out of 508; the main opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, after withdrawing from the run-off, ended up with one seat (compared with one-fifth of all parliament seats in 2005); the liberal opposition Wafd won six and the leftist opposition Tammu Party, five.
To make sure the results were plausible, the octogenarian Mubarak spent weeks in the run-up to voting negotiating secret deals with the opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. They agreed in advance to rigged results that were acceptable and credible (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 468 of Nov. 5: Egyptian Results Are Predetermined).
Each of the opposition parties was promised a larger slice of the House than it held before the vote. The Brotherhood, for instance, was promised an extra 100 seats.
The deftly rigged election became a shambles
So how did it come out of the election with one?
And how did the Egyptian election swing out of control and award the ruling party the size of majority sneered at in North Korea instead of a result which President Barack Obama could commend as representing a Middle East democracy in action?
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Middle East sources report that the president's careful tinkering was confounded by squabbles within the ruling National Democratic Party – or rather, the First Family. The supporters of Mubarak's son Gemal (Jimmy) were challenged by a faction headed by his wife, the first lady Susan, who is against Gemal succeeding her husband as president.
Unable to resolve the unending family spat or control the wholesale doctoring of ballots in the early selection of candidates, Mubarak and the NDP leaders agreed to hand the management of the parliamentary election to Intelligence Minister Gen. Omar Suleiman.
As a veteran Middle East security artist and covert action expert, the intelligence minister cut through Egypt's political knot by the tactics he knew best. Since he had been charged with bringing the ruling party to victory, he acted without too much finesse to bring to as close to 100 percent as possible. The simplest way to achieve this was to dump masses of opposition candidates in jail and make sure many others were frightened into withdrawing their candidatures. Not surprisingly, the opposition parties decided to boycott the vote.
Emerging from the election to step into the president's shoes
After succeeding beyond expectation, Suleiman asked himself why the bickering Mubaraks and NDP politicians should be the only ones to profit. So, he let many of the 439 elected ruling party deputies know that they owed their seats to him and he would be back to claim on the debt.
His nonchalance in the face of criticism showered on his performance in the United States and Europe, showed the Egyptian political establishment that he was not be to be cowed by world opinion or Washington.
To everyone's surprise, Gen. Suleiman has been suddenly catapulted to the top of Egypt's power pyramid. As the emerging national strongman, he already stands head and shoulders above Mubarak's anointed successor Jimmy.
Many observers in the region see the intelligence minister as rising from the election shambles as the leading contender for the presidency when it comes up for vote next year. In the present climate of infighting at the top of the regime, he will not find it too hard to engineer an amendment of the constitution allowing him to run for the presidency in a direct election without going through a party machine.