A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy 82nd Birthday to Husni Mubarak

Husni Mubarak turns 82 today. In honor of his special day I will refrain from my usual jokes about his complete lack of gray hair, despite the fact that mine's white and I'm 20 years his junior.

I will note, however, that there have been a fair number of rumors lately that he might actually name a Vice President. Also there've been reports that he may want ‘Omar Suleiman in that post, and even that he may want Suleiman to serve one five-year term and then yield to Gamal.

Needless to say, these reports are somewhere between just-made-up and, possibly, faint trial balloons. That's why I haven't mentioned them: we've heard so many rumors of this kind that I have no reason to credit these more than all the others. Only the President knows for sure what his plans are, but given his recent surgery, his seemingly lengthy convalescence (he's still at Sharm al-Sheikh, where he met with Netanyahu, and has ventured only as far as Ismailia), and the fact he's now 82, and elections are due by next year, something is going to have to happen fairly soon.

For one thing, protests have been building. There were major protests Sunday in favor of a rise in the minimum wage, which the government is apparently meeting in part. [And by "in part" I mean the protesters wanted a minimum wage of LE1200 (about US$216) a month, while the government has raised it from LE 214 ($38.50) to LE280 ($50)]. The cancellation of a march yesterday provoked more protest.

There's also the news that the Muslim Brotherhood will field 15 candidates in the upcoming Maglis al-Shura elections (Egypt's upper house). Having been blocked from running candidates before, it's running MB members who already hold seats in the lower house (the Maglis al-Sha‘b or People's Assembly). The Arabist offers his assessment of this story here.

Rumors or no, a fin du régime air is building, and some inkling of what is going to happen next is going to have to come at some point,

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

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