How Gamal brought the whole Mubarak house down

Gamal Essam El-Din, Friday 15 Apr 2011

As the Mubarak era comes to an end, Ahram Online lays bare how Gamal's path to succeed his father brought the whole house down

Gamal Mubarak in the Coptic mass on Christmas Eve last year (Photos reuters)

Although the January 25 Revolution forced Hosni Mubarak – Egypt's 82-year-old president – to resign on 11 February, many were still suspicious that he could launch a counter-revolution. These suspicions, however, died when Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud ordered in the early hours of 13 April that Gamal and his brother Alaa be remanded into custody for 15 days pending investigations into allegations of rampant corruption. Mubarak's two sons were taken to south Cairo's Tora Prison to join a host of heavyweights from of the defunct regime.

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak arrived in white uniforms and handcuffs at Tora Prison at 6am, after being questioned at an investigations office in South Sinai.

The two brothers face accusations related to financial corruption. In particular, however, Gamal faces the explosive accusation of inciting police forces and thugs to open fire and attack pro-democracy protesters at Tahrir Square on 28 January (the Friday of Rage) and on 2 February (the Battle of the Camel).

Gamal primarily faces charges of exploiting his father’s position to accumulate vast fortunes estimated at more than $700 million. He is also alleged to have smuggled large quantities of gold out of the country. Rumours abound that he and his brother Alaa were paid millions of dollars in commission by businessman Hussein Salem from the sale of natural gas to Israel.

Due to his highly influential political role in the last ten years of his father’s reign, the media paid special attention to Gamal’s arrest. In contrast with his brother Alaa, Gamal had a very active public profile and was influential in Egyptian politics for almost ten years. As a result, analysts went as far as describing Mubarak's last decade in power as “the age of Gamal Mubarak.” With Mubarak’s health on the wane and his refusal to appoint a vice-president, Gamal was said to wield so much influence he was considered Egypt's de-facto president. Many believe that Mubarak's wife Suzanne stood behind pressuring Mubarak to appoint his younger son to the presidency.

Gamal's ascent to power began when his father appointed him and a number of his business associates (notably steel magnate Ahmed Ezz) in February 2000 to the general secretariat of his ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). This sparked rumours that Gamal was being groomed to succeed his father. Although both Mubaraks denied any plan to create a family legacy or a father-son succession scenario in Egypt, the words had never matched the deeds.

The beginning came in December of that year when Gamal and a number of his business associates in the party seized on the poor performance of NDP candidates in elections – forcing the party to rely on so-called NDP-independents to secure a parliamentary majority – to reinforce their profile and increase leverage over the traditional leadership. Gamal and Ezz were appointed to a new committee, tasked with reforming the NDP.

Gamal’s second push on the path to power in the ruling party's ranks was established in September 2002 when the NDP held its eighth general congress. Under the slogan “A New Style of Thinking,” The Policies Secretariat was created and headed by Gamal Mubarak. This was announced before a televised audience and around 6,000 of the party’s political bureaucrats. The new secretariat marked a significant shift in favour of Gamal and his associates from the world of business, particularly since it produced a Higher Council for Policies (HCP), including 200 members, mostly young businessmen and academics allegedly tasked with relieving Egypt of the old socialist policies of the 1960s and antiquated viewpoints – as Gamal once called them. Gamal's position as secretary for policies had become the party's second most powerful position, only after its chairman: Mubarak the father.

In July 2004, a major reshuffling of the government reflected this new guard's control on the NDP and ministries with cabinet positions held by businessmen and liberal-oriented economists. Ahmed Nazif headed a cabinet that was notable for including Youssef Boutros Ghali as minister of finance, Rashid Mohamed Rashid for industry and trade, Ahmed Guweily incharge of investments and Ahmed El-Maghraby with the housing portfolio. Ghali, Rashid and Mohieddin were dubbed “Gamal Mubarak's trio” and entrusted with drawing up the government's economic agenda. Most of these are now either in jail pending investigations into corruption or have fled the country.

In February 2006, Gamal continued climbing up the NDP's ladder, becoming one of three assistant secretaries-general. In May 2006, Gamal met with the then US president George W Bush at the white house during an unofficial visit which triggered speculation that Mubarak was trying to enhance his son's profile among the Americans as part of his grooming for power.

Gamal reinforced his grip on power in 2007 when his Policies Secretariat played a key role in drafting 34 amendments to the constitution. This, according to opponents, cleared the political barrier to Gamal's succession. On 4 May 2008 ( Hosni Mubarak's seventy-ninth birthday), Gamal cleared the social barrier to his succession when he wed Khadija El-Gammal, the 23-year-old daughter of Mahmoud El-Gammal, one of Egypt's wealthiest  businessmen and real estate magnates.

In the NDP's annual conference in September, 2008, Gamal Mubarak became just one step away from inheriting power. A Higher NDP Council was formed, including 46 figures on top of whom Gamal Mubarak and all have the right to be NDP candidates in presidential elections.

When Mubarak's health deteriorated in the summer of 2010 and he was forced to go to Germany to undergo gall bladder surgery, Gamal and his right-hand man Ahmed Ezz were the ones entrusted with orchestrating that year's parliamentary elections. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Their manipulation of the elections was the worst in Egypt's modern political history, creating a parliament free of any semblance of opposition: secular or Islamist.

At the party's seventh annual conference on 24-25 December, Gamal, at his most arrogant, insisted that the parliamentary elections were not rigged. He announced that the NDP would use “its crushing victory” to implement a new wave of neo-liberal economic policies “and that the failure of opposition parties to win seats in parliament was because of their very low popularity – a fact which the NDP should not be held responsible for.”

And so began 2011 and while Gamal was rolling up his sleeves to prepare his father's campaign for presidential elections, there came from Tunisia a sudden shock on 14 January when its  despotic president Zine Al-Abidine bin Ali was toppled from power. Distressed by this turn of events, Gamal tried to fire his prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, on 17 January but there was no time. Inspired by the Tunisian Revolution, Egyptians took to the streets on the Police Day holiday of 25 January.

Seeing his dream of becoming president fading, Gamal incited his associates to fund and organise attacks by hired thugs on protesters in Tahrir Square. In what came to be known as the Battle of the Camel, thugs rode into the square on camels and horses, attacking protesters with swords and Molotov cocktails.

The son persisted and Gamal did his best to keep his father in power right until the end, but his efforts backfired. He wrote the speech his father delivered on 10 February which infuriated protesters expecting his to step down and led the army to intervene to force Mubarak’s hand.

Through his corrupt manoeuvrings, Gamal hastened his father's demise and scuppered his own dreams of being president.

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