Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League (AL), has made a surprising statement regarding his intentions to run as a candidate in Egypt's presidential race. "Every qualified Egyptian has the right to run for the presidency", said Moussa at an AL conference in Cairo on Monday. "As for my candidacy, I shall address it in due time," Moussa added. Moussa's short announcement, seemingly meant to keep his options open, may indeed be carrying a coded message for Mubarak himself; "I am here if you need me. I can provide a safe exit scenario for you and the regime. A safe exit from an unsustainable situation that can turn ugly."
In 2005, Mubarak explained that "existing" power was not an easy thing to do. Several analysts speculated what he had meant. But the now 82-year old man may have meant every word. He must have feared of what could happen to him, his family and "heads of the other families" which run the show in Egypt; politicians, security officials or business tycoons who are accused of profiteering from monopolies, illegal land appropriations and other corruption charges. Mubarak is unlikely to live forever, but there is no one else, by design, who could take his seat. Mubarak, and the regime, have become hostages of the very machine they had designed and operated.
A few months ago, Amr Adeeb, a popular Talk Show host, experienced a dangerous slip of the tongue when he talked about the need to explore a safe exit for the President. All hell broke loose in Adeeb's face and eventually his show was discontinued, although it was aired by a satellite channel owned by a foreign media group. Emad Eddin Adeeb, Amr's brother and a media mogul, re-opened the topic of the regime's safe exit in an interview on Dream TV a few days ago, saying that chances of a safe exit for the regime were now diminishing. State-owned media launched a vicious campaign of attacks against Emad, who had hosted Mubarak back in May 2005 in a special documentary designed to show the human side of Egypt's top man as a part of Mubarak's first ever Presidential Campaign. Mubarak has been President of Egypt since 1981.
The results of the Parliamentary Elections of November 2010 proved disastrous in further pushing Mubarak and his regime into a path with a dead end. After the first round of the Elections, the ruling Party, NDP, acquired 96% of the seats which came with massive claims, reports, photos and videos of wide irregularities. The Muslim Brothers and El Wafd withdrew from the second round, joining the Democratic Front Party, El Ghad Party and the National Assembly for Change which had called for boycotting the elections from the start.
Amr Moussa, 74, has been with the regime since his early days. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1958, successfully advancing through the ranks till he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1991, a position which he held for 10 years. Moussa became popular for his strong rhetoric on issues close to Egyptians' hearts, such as Palestine and the invasion of Iraq. When Shaaban Abdel Rehim, a popular local singer lovingly mentioned him in a song, a sign that he had become too popular for his own good, the regime kicked him to the Arab League, where he was appointed as Secretary General. None of the foreign ministers who succeeded him managed to fill his shoes, at least in the public eye. In 2007, a number of informal opinion polls demonstrated that Amr Moussa scored highly in the minds of Egyptians as a potential successor to Mubarak. Moussa was careful to choose his timing. Now, Moussa probably realizes that his time is drawing near. He knows that he has valuable political capital, and he may be willing to cash it in. But only in one condition, it seems. If he is asked by the President himself.
Why would Mubarak be willing to consider Moussa and not his own son, Gamal, who has been groomed for almost a decade for the position? Mubarak is a smart man. He realizes that despite the massive campaigns for his son, there is a wide public dissent against the idea. The military does not seem supportive either because Egyptians believe that "Egypt is not like Syria", where father-to-son succession seemed to work for Al Asads. No one else has been prepared in the public eye for the position. It may be of little consequence to rig Parliamentary Elections because Mubarak himself is there providing legitimacy. But once Mubarak is out of the picture, the regime may collapse like a house of cards. Rigging elections for a presidential candidate who has no public support can spark unrests, instability and eventually mark the end of the regime. The regime it seems, is stuck and out of options. Moussa would not be the regime's favorite alternative. But he is now the only one who relates to the regime and in the same time commands sufficient public support to provide necessary stability.
Technically, the ruling party cannot nominate Moussa because he is not a member of the Party's Leading Council. But that obstacle could be overcome either by changing the constitution or by getting signatures from 250 parliamentary members, something only the NDP could do. The ironic twist is that ElBaradei, another potential candidate for the Presidency, is Moussa's cousin. In 2010, ElBaradei led a campaign which managed to collect one million signatures on a petition with seven demands of political reform including amendment of the constitution. When ElBaradei returned to Egypt beginning of 2010, he visited Moussa and no one knows the sort of discussion that went on that day. Anyone who comes after Mubarak will be bound to introduce a reform package to rebuild the regime's legitimacy and unite Egyptians with a national consensus around key political, social and economic issues. The extent and seriousness of these reforms will depend on how Egypt's opposition can stand united around basic reform demands. This is why initiatives like the "Alternative Parliament" or "Parallel Parliament" and the National Assembly for Change are important vehicles in the critical weeks and months to come in Egypt.