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The rise and fall of Egypt’s lucky prime minister

Ahmed Nazif, widely seen to have been placed at the top of government by Gamal Mubarak, was sent to prison Sunday for 15 days pending investigations into government corruption, bringing to an end his run of luck

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 11 Apr 2011
Ahmed Nazif
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif (Reuters)
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Views: 8991

When Ahmed Nazif was selected to be Egypt’s prime minister in July 2004, all were taken by surprise. Nazif was a pure technocrat with no political experience whatsoever.

An electrical and computer engineer for 22 years, during which he displayed no political ambitions, Nazif was appointed Egypt’s minister of telecommunication and information technology in October, 1999.

When it became apparent, however, that it was ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s younger son Gamal who had selected Nazif to be prime minister, the surprise turned into a shock. The engineer seemed to have become a tool in the hands of Gamal Mubarak and his tycoon cronies in the then ruling National Democratic National Party (NDP) to implement their agenda of neo-liberal economic policies to turn Egypt into a fully-fledged market economy. It is these policies which negatively affected the lives of millions of Egyptians and sowed the seeds of the January 25 Revolution.

During his seven years in office, Nazif was considered Egypt’s luckiest man. According to Gamal Zahran, a professor of politics in Suez Canal University and a former independent MP, “Nazif knew that he was selected by Gamal Mubarak to be just a symbolic prime minister but this was not a source of worry for him. Nazif was always smiling because he never dreamed of becoming a prime minister and thought that he was a very lucky man to be so, regardless of the fact that Mubarak’s son is the one who selected him.”

As a result, Zahran contends, Nazif maintained a distance from politics, never daring to impose his will on Gamal Mubarak or any of his friends from the world of business. While they peddled influence to control the country’s assets, he accumulated wealth that is estimated at billions of dollars.

Nazif’s seven-year-old “lucky” tenure as prime minister came to an end on 10 April when Egypt’s prosecutor-general ordered that he be detained for 15 days as part of ongoing investigations into the misappropriation of public funds. Nazif is allegedly accused of giving direct orders for the interior ministry to buy metal plates for cars from a German company rather than allowing a competitive bid to be tended.

A committee, including professors from Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Engineering, stressed that “the German company was allowed to export the plates to the interior ministry although the price of each one was very high, not to mention that the locally-produced ones were cheap and of good quality.” The committee added that “this bad transaction cost the state’s treasury an amount of LE92m and as a result citizens wanting to get a car driving licence were forced to pay high fees per board to compensate for the big loss.”

Among the other accusations levelled against Nazif is that he authorised the sale of a large plot of land in 6 October at a knocked down price for establishing the Nile University. Nazif was later found to be one of the university’s shareholders, leaving him open to accusations that he profited illegally from his position.

Press reports from when Nazif was sent to Tora prison in south Cairo revealed a gloomy man who had run out of luck.

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