The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 82, has finally decided not to run in the 2011 presidential election. He has begun handing the reins of government over to his son and anointed successor, Gemal (Jimmy) Mubarak, 52.
(See DNW 437 of March 19: Mubarak has Cancer, Presidential Powers are in the Process of Transfer).
Gemal Mubarak, who officiates as General Secretary of the ruling NPD's Policy Committee, has taken charge of day-to-day presidential business, while Mubarak Sr. retains key foreign policy and security affairs – though not for much longer.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Western intelligence sources in Cairo report that the president is weak in health after undergoing major surgery in Germany in early March. In the process of removing his gallbladder, cancerous cells were discovered in his stomach. The German doctors told Mubarak that, at his age, these cells are not overly aggressive and the disease is treatable in a way that allows him to carry on a normal lifestyle for an unknown period of time in the hope that the disease does not metastasize and spread to other parts of the body.
But a "normal life-style" depends on his retirement from presidential duties and enjoying complete rest. The doctors warned him that the strains of the presidency could stimulate the cancerous cells and make them more aggressive.
Most Middle East visitors who saw him in the last few days described him as looking frail. He moves very slowly with great effort and has just had a hearing aid fitted after partially losing his hearing. Most of his time since the operation, Mubarak spends at the presidential retreat at Sharm el Sheikh in southern Sinai. The speech he delivered in Cairo Thursday, May 6, was his first appearance in the capital since he returned from Germany on March 17 and he appeared in public to calm rumors about his failing health.
Washington snubs ElBaradei's bid for the presidency
A few hours later, he was back in Sharm. There, he is attended by personal aides who help him keep the presidential bureau functioning and ministers, bureaucrats and officials at arm's length.
The president's reclusiveness and absence from the capital is causing political unrest in Cairo.
Monday, May 3, Egyptian police beat up anti-government protesters out on the streets to demand an end to the country's 30-year emergency laws restricting civil liberties. Several hundred black-uniformed riot policemen pushed back about 150 protesters who tried to break through a security barrier in downtown Cairo. Police using night sticks set about members of the pro-reform youth April 6 movement, which backs the unofficial candidacy of former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed El Baradei, starting a major scuffle.
El Baradei's supporters organized the protest to try to cover for the failure of their leader's mission to Washington last week.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington, he asked to meet Obama administration officials to try and to persuade them to back his campaign to amend the Egyptian constitution before next year's presidential election in order for him to stand as a candidate.
But all he found in Washington was closed doors.
They were shut by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones in an unusual, well-orchestrated move against a once towering international figure.
El Baradei had to make do with an appearance before an audience of Egyptian academics at American universities, who gathered to hear him speak at Harvard University.
By brushing off ElBaradei and his ambitious bid to enter Egyptian politics as a presidential candidate, the Obama administration signaled the ruling echelons in Egypt that Washington fully backed Jimmy Mubarak as his ailing father's successor.