Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the next couple of weeks will prepare to replace Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and appoint a vice president as his probable successor, according to a STRATFOR source.
Political tensions have risen in Cairo since news broke in March that the 81-year-old president had undergone major gall bladder surgery
in a German hospital; he is also rumored to have terminal cancer. The Egyptian leader is thus feeling urgency to implement a successor plan and undercut any rising political challengers. Nazif, a wealthy technocrat, was appointed prime minister by Mubarak in 2004, and temporarily assumed presidential powers just before Mubarak’s operation. Mubarak has since reassumed his post as president but does not see Nazif fitting into his succession plan.
The post of vice president is a sensitive one in Egypt. In 1975, Mubarak served as vice president to his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, and then assumed the presidency in 1981 following Sadat’s assassination. After unexpectedly assuming the presidency, Mubarak was wary of internal political threats and was reluctant to share power when he became president. As a result, he has maintained a state of emergency in the country since Sadat’s assassination and has avoided appointing a vice president throughout his term. Given the precariousness of Mubarak’s health, his vice-presidential appointee will be seen by many as his likely successor.
Mubarak is recuperating from his surgery in the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. He is expected to return to Cairo within the next two weeks following a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh with Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Saudi King Abdullah. Upon his return to Cairo, Mubarak is expected to announce his replacement for the premiership, as well as his choice for vice president. According to the STRATFOR source, Mubarak is selecting from three individuals for the prime minister’s post. The first is Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief and long-rumored successor to Mubarak. The second is Zakaria Azmi, a prominent member of the People’s Assembly and close friend of Mubarak. The third is Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, Egypt’s minister of Civil Aviation and former commander of the Egyptian air force.
Suleiman is the most likely candidate for vice president, who would succeed the president in the event of the president’s death or incapacitation. A STRATFOR source has said that the succession plan calls for Suleiman to serve for one presidential term before leaving the office to Mubarak’s son, Gamal. Suleiman’s job is to ensure the support of the military for Gamal’s eventual succession to his father’s post.
The preparations for the succession indicate the severity of Mubarak’s condition as well as the extent to which the Egyptian government is attempting to avoid any major political conflagrations during the impending power transition.