Positions vacant: wanted, one military dictator
The discussion over who will suceed President Hosny Mubarak, now 81, is reaching fever pitch, even in such far-flung corners as Australia. Take a look at this article appearing in today's Sydney Morning Herald. For sure, the accompanying photo, a picture of Hosny with the Star of David on his forehead, and a pair of feet stepping on the photo, would never be published here in Egypt (this pic is one the many propaganda snaps across the country, where Hosny does his Blues Brothers impersonation).
Yes, the man who has singlehandedly kept Egypt's black hair dye companies in business is getting his house in order.
Of course, rumours of Hosny's ill-health have been running for years: he's an old man. But with the blatant grooming of his son Gamal, the whole country is obsessed with the question: what will come of the elections, to be held next year?
The criteria for eligible candidates appears to be tightened by the day, as critics say Hosny's men are erecting yet more and more barriers to exclude undesirable candidates (internationally respected scholars and diplomats, that sort of nasty type), and posters of Gamal and his dad (aka "La Vache qui rit" or the Laughing Cow) have been popping up all over the countryside. Mind you, Gamal doesn't endear himself when a soujourn up to his villa on Egypt's Mediterranean coast means more roadside checks and police blocks than you can shake a passport at.
In the Australian article, a commentator states, ''The Mubarak family is not a dynasty. They are a father, a mother and two children." In fact, a neighbour pointed out to me recently that he used to live just down the road from me in a decidedly unremarkable suburb (as opposed to the palace next door, which like most of Egypt's palaces, is a lush affair that the public will never set foot in, even tho it lies unused, just a massive dust collector).
The other key point in the article is the $1.7 billion aid Egypt receives from the US every year, no doubt to placate and keep sedated the existing government. Who knows where the money goes? In my recent jaunt up on the north coast, I spotted numerous watchhouses where bored young conscripts perfect their 1000-yard stare, doing little but collecting water on donkeys and watching goats wander past. The watchhouses are ramshackle affairs covered in wire and tattered flags, not exactly awe or fear-inspiring.
For sure the money is not going to that side of the country, not even at the raw western border town of Sollum, which butts up against Libya. Hey, what about that steel wall being built between Egypt and Palestine, on the eastern front? Worth some questions...