An old joke here goes something like this: President Hosni Mubarak is on his deathbed when an aide comes to his side and says, “Mr. President, aren’t you going to give a farewell speech to the people?” The president opens his eyes and replies: “Really? Why? Where are the people going?”
At three decades, Mr. Mubarak’s tenure is the longest of any president since the ouster of the king in the 1950s. He has served longer than Gamal Abdel Nasser, a pioneer of Arab nationalism, and longer than Anwar el-Sadat, the man who made peace with Israel. He is routinely referred to as Egypt’s modern pharaoh, though usually in a cautious whisper.
Beginning on Friday, Mr. Mubarak’s ruling party, the National Democratic Party, will hold a general assembly. Six thousand, five hundred delegates from Egypt, along with guests from around the world, will gather to talk and listen. They will discuss economic, political and terrorism-related issues. What they will not discuss, party officials said, is succession — arguably, and in many minds, one of the most important issues regarding Egypt’s long-term stability.
Who will come after Mr. Mubarak?
It is a question many people here ask, but as a party official said after a briefing on the assembly, “You will never get the answer you want.” [complete article]