CAIRO-An Egyptian-American dissident and an outspoken critic of alleged hereditary succession in Egypt has signed a petition backing Gamal Mubarak, the son of President Hosni Mubarak, as a potential presidential contender, saying he supported Gamal's right as a citizen to run but he does not endorse him.
Sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who has been back from a three-year voluntary
exile in the US, gained prominence for being one of the first to criticise a trend
toward sons succeeding their fathers in the Middle East in 2000. He fought a three-year court battle to stay out of prison. "I signed (the petition) to support his right as a citizen to run, but I don't endorse him," Ibrahim said while getting ready to board a flight to the United States, where he works as an academic .
His act has drawn mixed reaction.
The petition Ibrahim signed on Sunday is part of a campaign to nominate Gamal, the 46-year-old investment banker-turnedpolitician, even while President Hosni Mubarak himself has not said if he will run for another term.
"Gamal Mubarak and other Egyptian citizens have the right to run for the presidency
in fair, free elections," Ibrahim said.
He added that his signing of the petition was a message from "a man who calls for
The signatories to the petition "authorise" the younger Mubarak to nominate
himself for presidency and represent all Egyptians. Magdy el-Kurdi, the co-ordinator of the new unofficial pro-Gamal campaign, described Ibrahim's move as "a positive
change in his position toward Gamal".
"Dr. Saad used to say that nomination means hereditary succession, but now he
says that if Gamal secures popular support, this won't be hereditary," said el-Kurdi, a
previously unknown member of the leftist Al-Tagammu opposition party.
Over a period of three years Ibrahim battled the charges in a string of court cases,
and was imprisoned twice until his final exoneration in 2003.
The US administration criticised his incarceration and the issue became a sore
point between the two governments.
According to el-Kurdi, Ibrahim's move will give a boost to his campaign, known as
"The Popular Coalition to Support Gamal Mubarak for Presidential Elections,"
which emerged out of the blue last month, covering the streets of poor neighbourhoods
with pro-Gamal posters.
The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) denies any involvement in the campaign, which appears to mimic a campaign by supporters of former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
Hassan Nafaa, the co-ordinator for opposition movement that is backing the nomination of ElBaradei, condemned Ibrahim's move.
"He's either lost his mind or there is a deal with the ruling regime," he told AP.
"This is a miserable fall for Saad, and no one is going to believe him anymore."
Ibrahim has also signed ElBaradei's petition calling for constitutional changes to
open up the political process so that more people can participate, but Nafaa said there
was a major difference between the two measures.
"The opposition are deprived of the right to run, while Gamal's door is open in front
of him and running for elections is just up to him and to his father," he said.
Salama Ahmed Salama, a veteran writer and political analyst, meanwhile, said that
Ibrahim's signing of the petition for “the citizen Gamal Mubarak comes in accordance
with his previous stances”.
"There is no change in Ibrahim's stance. His approval of Gamal's possible candidacy
is conditioned that the elections should be fair and free," Salama, also the chief editor
of Al-Shorouq independent daily, told the Egyptian Mail. He added that Ibrahim's
remarks should not be taken out of context.
"Ibrahim made the right thing. His words should not be interpreted in a wrong way. He himself warned against misunderstanding his signing of the petition," Salama said.