In one week, Mubarak has had heart attacks, a brain clot, and was pronounced clinically dead—are his doctors really that good? Vivian Salama reports on the former leader’s alleged final days.
It is somewhat impossible to decipher between fact and fiction in Egypt when everyone speaks with authority about everything from their own health to U.S. foreign policy. Egyptian culture is such that if you refuse a cigarette, you may be deemed elitist, not health conscious; if you point out weight gain, you are observant, not rude; and when someone asks you for directions, you always give it to them, regardless whether or not you know the way.
Our Newsbeast panel discusses why you shouldn't fear the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is therefore no surprise that late Tuesday night the nation was abuzz, both on the ground and online, over news that former president Hosni Mubarak was “clinically dead”—with theories rife over its significance just days before the winner of the first presidential election is announced. There were skeptics, of course—rightfully so; it wasn’t the first time he’d "died." Some authoritatively explained that his death is being used as a distraction from the current political transition. Ahmed Orabi, an engineer from Cairo, speculates that the ruling military junta does not want Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi to clench the presidency, so they faked Mubarak’s death as a way to win sympathy for Morsi's opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, a former member of the defunct regime. “It is a conspiracy,” he says.
Others believe the disgraced Mubarak has been dead for months, while some say he is in perfect health and living the good life in jail. “I don't think Mubarak is as sick as they claim he is, because no one has three heart attacks and a brain clot and survives them all in one week—our doctors are not that good,” Mahmoud Salem, author of the popular blog “Rantings of a Sandmonkey” said in an interview.
Mubarak’s lawyers later confirmed that he isn’t dead, but is experiencing a "fast deterioration of his health” and he has since come off life support. They say he has been transported from prison, where he is serving a life sentence for protester deaths last year, to a military hospital in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Not that anyone believes them. Such is the mood in Cairo on the eve of learning who the next president will be—with both camps claiming victory and a bulk of the opposition turning their efforts toward ousting the military leadership. Tens of thousands poured into Tahrir Square on Tuesday night in what was more a celebration than a demonstration. Some jubilantly waved Morsi banners and assured skeptics that victory is inevitable. Buses were parked all along the outskirts of Tahrir Square on Tuesday as hordes of people from the countryside traveled in to take part in the festivities.
“Thank God, Mohammed Morsi is our president and he will fix all that is wrong with our country,” said Omar Mohammed, 23, who bused in from the governorate of Fayoum to take part in the rally.
As Mubarak reportedly clings to life, thousands of protesters flooded Tahrir Square to denounce the military's powers. Vivian Salama on the ticked-off Egyptians fighting for democracy—again.
Ancient Egyptians believed that every person has three souls: Ka, Ba, and Akh. When a pharaoh was dying, priests went to great lengths to preserve the body in the hopes that even in death, the soul of the pharaoh dwells on earth for eternity.
Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square to protest the dissolution of Parliament and celebrate a premature victory for presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images)
More than 16 months after Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's modern-day pharaoh, resigned and was imprisoned, reports of his death have once again managed to overshadow the country’s historic transition period, just days before his predecessor is to be announced and while protesters took to the streets to purge his legacy from the incoming administration. State-run Middle East News Agency reported late Tuesday that the defunct leader was “clinically dead,” later backtracking to say that he experienced a "fast deterioration of his health" and is on life support.
With both camps claiming victory and official results not expected until June 21, tens of thousands of people poured into Tahrir Square Tuesday night with spirits reminiscent of the 18-day demonstration that brought down the former regime. The protesters donned face veils or long, thick beards and carried campaign posters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi—the presumed winner by many. Some, young hipsters by American standards, carried red socialist flags. Others brought their children and waved red, white, and black banners that read “I love Egypt.” To many activists in Egypt, it doesn’t matter who wins the presidential election. One theme was universal across the square: the revolution continues.
Even as the last of the votes were being counted and Mubarak death rumors made the rounds yet again, demonstrators chanted in unison, denouncing the country’s current ruler—the military—following a series of recent legislations that some say amounted to a soft coup. They chanted: “We’ll finish what we started! Down, down, military rule.” Faced with the dilemma of choosing between the stalwart former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafiq and Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, many are fearful that a military clampdown is inevitable, regardless of who the president is.
Egyptians flooded Tahrir Square to protest election results.
Said to be in coma.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s health reportedly continued to deteriorate on Wednesday as he was moved from prison to an Army hospital in Cairo. He is reportedly in a coma and on life support. Earlier reports that he was “clinically dead” were later denied, but there has been no official statement. Both supporters and opponents gathered outside the Maadi hospital throughout the night, although some remained skeptical about Mubarak’s declining health. Meanwhile, thousands protested Tuesday in Tahrir Square against the ruling military council’s decision to claim new powers, as Mubarak’s former military leader, Ahmed Shafiq, and his Muslim Brotherhood challenger, Mohamed Morsi, both declared victory in the election. The results are expected to be announced Thursday.
Campaign spokesman says Ahmed Shafiq won.
The more things change, the more they stay the same in Egypt. Ahmed Shafiq, the man whom Hosni Mubarak appointed as prime minister during Egypt’s tumultuous revolution last year, declared himself the winner in the country’s presidential race. Ahmed Sarhan, a spokesman for Shafiq, said in a press conference that Shafiq captured 51.5 percent of the vote and claimed that the Mohamed Morsi’s victory claim was “false.” The official result of the vote will be announced Thursday. Meanwhile, crowds gathered in Tahrir Square, and the city braced for more protests throughout the day.
Israeli analysts are concerned that Mohamed Morsi, the newly elected president of Egypt, will eventually resort to a time-tested sop in the Arab world: blaming Israel.
He won’t attack Israel and he’s unlikely to tear up the peace treaty, at least initially. But Israelis are worried that Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader and newly elected president of Egypt, will lead an isolation campaign against the Jewish state, shore up Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and bring relations between the two countries to their lowest point in more than 30 years.
Morsi defeated the candidate of the old Mubarak regime, Ahmed Shafik, by a slim margin in a runoff election over the weekend, according to preliminary results. He faces huge challenges, including a battered economy and a military that refuses to submit to civilian rule.
Israeli officials and analysts who spoke to The Daily Beast about the results said Morsi will have little time in the coming months to deal with anything but his country’s most pressing domestic matters. They include reasserting control over Sinai, where gunmen launched a cross-border attack against Israel yesterday, killing one person.
But they also predicted that if he’s unable to restore stability and stem widespread poverty, Morsi would likely resort to what Israelis see as a time-tested sop in the Arab world: blaming Israel.
“Once he understands that he has no quick solution to cope with the social and economic problems, he’ll start talking about the problem of Egypt’s relations with Israel,” says Eli Shaked, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt from 2004 to 2005.
“It’s the easiest way to get populist support.”
As a Mubarak ally faces off against a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Egypt’s presidential race, many voters feel as if they are being asked to choose between a suffocating past and an untenable future, writes Lauren E. Bohn.
Tucked away in a shabby building 50 miles outside of Cairo in one of Egypt’s dusty drab hamlets, and up seven flights of dingy stairs, sits a rotund and slick Ahmed Fouad Baddar, surrounded by a ring of grimacing men. He calls them his soldiers.
“It’s three days before presidential run-offs and Egypt is at war,” he declares, his desk flooded with papers and his cell phone ringing every five minutes (“What do you need?” is his standard greeting). “But,” he smiles widely, “we’re winning.”
For the past three months, Baddar has been at the helm of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s campaign in Sharqeyya, one of many governorates in the rural Nile Delta region that Shafiq surprisingly swept in the first round of Egypt’s presidential elections. For a campaign office, the accoutrements are surprisingly sparse: the two-room office is small and features a single desk, sans phones or computers. The walls are wallpapered with Shafiq’s campaign posters that his critics scoff could double as advertisements for country-clubs or chic designer clothes. “We don’t need fancy equipment in here,” Baddar laughs. “We’ve got it covered.”
And they just might—a prospect that scares as many Egyptians as it excites.
Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq addresses his supporters during an election rally in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament on Thursday and ruled that Mubarak's former prime minister can stand in the presidential runoff this weekend _ derailing Egypt's transition to democracy and setting the stage for the military and remnants of the old regime to stay in power. (Nasser Nasser / AP Photo)
Eighteen months after the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s presidential run-off between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister and a former Air Force general, has morphed into a national identity crisis. It’s a contest of power between political Islam and remnants of the Mubarak regime. Shafiq’s seemingly out-of-nowhere success indicates exactly what revolutionaries have feared all along: a resurgence of the former ruling regime's political machine that never really went away. Such hunches seemed to be confirmed on Thursday when Egypt’s judiciary ruled to dissolve the democratically elected, Islamist-led Parliament, while also confirming the right of Shafiq to run for president, escalating an already heated battle for power between the remnants of the toppled regime and rising Islamists. The ruling essentially means that whoever emerges as the winner of the runoff scheduled for this weekend will take the helm in Egypt without a parliament, a constitution, or a definite framework for assembling one. That winner will most likely also control the election of a future Parliament.
Egypt’s high court ruled the Islamist Parliament must dissolve immediately, paving the way for next week’s election winner to rise to power. But wasn’t the point of the revolution to avoid military and theocratic states? Vivian Salama reports.
With just 36 hours to go until Egypt’s historic presidential election, the country has no Parliament and no new constitution. In a stunning 11th-hour decision, the country’s High Constitutional Court dissolved the Islamist-dominated Parliament, declaring that elections were unconstitutional, essentially leaving the new president at the mercy of the military. In the 17 months since Egyptians joined forces to topple President Hosni Mubarak, the country has evolved from one of collective euphoria to one limp with apprehension, this latest development sending the country into a tailspin.
A youth shouts next to an Egyptian flag as the revolutionary youth of Egypt return to Tahrir to protest the outcome of the Egyptian presidential election, Cairo, Egypt, May 28, 2012. (Fredrik Persson / AP Photo)
Egyptians will head to the polls June 16—many with heavy hearts—as they cast a final vote for a president, with the hope of dislodging themselves from more than a half century of status quo. But Tahrir Square still swells with protesters every few days—the upcoming vote creating a dilemma for many, pitting two of the least likely candidates against each other: one, an old guard from the defunct regime, the other, an Islamist heavyweight. With no legislative body to ensure checks and balances, the new president may have to take on the powerful military establishment on his own.
The military, de facto ruler of the country since Mubarak’s resignation, has suffered a severe decline in public opinion following a number of violent clashes with protesters that evoked a bitter outcry. Making matters worse, a government decree passed earlier this week allows military police and intelligence to detain civilians and refer them to military tribunals—a ruling reminiscent of Mubarak-era tactics used to crush dissent. The military may soon surrender the top seat, but recent developments signal that it will continue to play an active role in governance, regardless of who wins.
All the while, the economy is in shambles, and citizens who were already struggling to make ends meet before the revolution are now barely getting by, fueled only by hope that change for the better is on the brink.
Facing off this weekend: Ahmed Shafiq, 70, a former Air Force commander and the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak, and Mohammed Morsi, 60, a U.S.-educated engineer and chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. For weeks, the two have appeared in campaign ads and traveled across Egypt, meeting citizens and addressing their concerns, with hope of establishing new loyalties amid this turbulent period. Egypt's high court also issued a last-minute ruling allowing Shafiq to continue his bid, despite his links to the previous regime.
As the country looks toward a June presidential runoff, Egypt’s dreaded security agencies remain loathsome relics of Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
Among the many reasons why Hosni Mubarak’s people finally turned against him last year, the behavior of Egypt’s police and security agencies deserve to rank in any observer’s top three. Put simply, the Interior Ministry under Mubarak lost control of itself—morphing into a predatory force with no real checks on its behavior, as its reach extended into the lives of almost every citizen.
Now 15 months after Mubarak was driven from power, disturbingly little has changed. Egypt’s hated and dreaded Interior Ministry stands largely unreformed—an armed and resentful elephant in the room of post-revolutionary Egypt, and one of the biggest potential obstacles to truly changing the way the country worked under the old regime.
“In terms of internal reform, very little really has happened,” said Karim Ennarah a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based human rights NGO.
“The only thing that really has changed is that after the revolution … they’ve discovered PR. Before that they really didn’t care.”
Egypt’s police have returned to the streets in nearly full force; in some districts their grip is less firm than it used to be, but they’ve largely revived their thug-and-informant-based control networks and retained the penchant for stationhouse brutality and coerced confessions. Curiously, this return to power has coincided with an increase in street crime and rising public perception of widespread instability.
It’s a twin phenomenon that some find to be more than a coincidence. Some observers such as Alaa Aswany, a bestselling novelist and longtime opposition activist, believe the police and security infrastructure are either sitting back and letting the situation on the streets deteriorate or actively involved in making it worse.
Ex-premier Ahmed Shafiq served under Mubarak.
A mob of several hundred people attacked the Cairo campaign headquarters of Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq on Monday. They broke windows, destroyed campaign posters, and set the building on fire, according to witnesses. Shafiq took second in last week’s round of voting and he will be running against the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi during the runoff election in June. Shafiq served as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, and there is fear that his presidency would be an extension of the Mubarak regime.
Though spokesman refuses to give percentages.
The Muslim Brotherhood claims to be leading in exit polls in Egypt’s first truly competitive presidential election. Workers began counting the ballots from the two days of voting on Thursday night, but the Brotherhood claimed on TV that its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, was the leader in exit polls nationwide. The Brotherhood spokesman would not give percentages, but regional television channels have also said that their exit polls show Morsi in the lead, with Ahmed Shafiq and Hamdeen Sabahi competing for second place. A run-off election is scheduled for June 16-17 and will only be held if none of the 13 candidates win over half of the votes in the first election.
A crowded field of candidates and inconclusive opinion polls leading up to Egypt’s presidential election make it all but impossible to accurately forecast the winner, writes Tarek Masoud.
When the results of Egypt’s first post-revolution presidential election are released, pundits and analysts will rush to explain why they had to be so. If Muhammad Mursi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood wins, we will be told that it is because Egyptians are desirous of more Islam in their political life. If Ahmed Shafiq (Mubarak’s friend and last prime minister) or Amre Moussa (his former foreign minister) wins, it will be because the people are tired and want a return of Egypt’s sleepy, pre-revolutionary normalcy. If victory goes to Hamdin Sabahi (the leader of a small, well-regarded Arab nationalist party) or Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (a kindly physician and Muslim Brotherhood member turned liberal) it will be because people want an exit from the grim Islamism-or-Mubarak dichotomy of the past.
Readers should take all of these explanations with a grain of salt. Not because any one of them is not true, but because all of them are true, often within the mind of the same Egyptian voter. Whatever the special alchemy that causes a voter to tip one way or the other, it appears only to kick in on the way to the polling station, or once the curtain is drawn. Those of us who have tried to know the mind of the Egyptian electorate have been roundly thwarted, as polls and surveys conducted over the last few weeks have shown crazy swings in public opinion. Sometimes the Muslim Brotherhood is up, other times the old Mubarak cronies are. Many Egyptians have come to the conclusion that poll results are cooked up by partisan media outlets and think tanks to plump for their favorite candidates. This is almost certainly true in some cases. For example, Tawfik Okasha, Egypt’s less coherent version of Glenn Beck, yesterday tweeted an exit poll that gave Shafiq 56 percent of the vote, Moussa 43 percent, and Mursi 34 percent, for a total of 133 percent. But, such farces aside, the volatility of Egyptian polling is for the most part a reflection of volatility in the Egyptian electorate. The people appear not to have made up their minds.
At one level, this uncertainty is to be expected—the candidates have only had a month to campaign, and most voters’ understanding of them is hazy at best. There has been only one presidential debate—a grueling three-hour affair in which only two candidates participated and which was aired on a private satellite TV station whose penetration in Egyptian households is unknown. Voters have simply not had the opportunity to see the candidates and their views pitted against each other.
At the same time, the smart money has long been on the Muslim Brotherhood. After all, the country handed Islamists 70 percent of the seats in its Parliament not six months ago. One can be forgiven for thinking that it would be unlikely then to turn around and elect a non-Islamist to the presidency. For this reason, many expect a runoff between Mursi (the Muslim Brother) and Aboul Fotouh (the former Muslim Brother).
But this is by no means assured. The Brotherhood has lost some of its luster in recent months. Its parliamentarians (admittedly, unfairly) have come under attack for not magically solving Egypt’s problems in their five months in office. The defection of Aboul Fotouh has generated a split within the movement, with many younger brothers torn between loyalty to party and their affection for the genial physician and activist, whose campaign for change has managed to attract an almost impossibly broad tent of liberals and religious conservatives. And finally, the Brotherhood’s decision to field Mursi for president (after having earlier declared that it would not seek a share of executive power) has caused many to doubt the movement’s storied reputation for honesty.
Protesters threw shoes on Wednesday at candidate.
Egyptians returned to the polls on Thursday for the second day of voting in the country’s first free election since ousting former President Hosni Mubarak last year. Lines at the polls were not as long as Wednesday, although Egyptian authorities proclaimed Thursday a holiday to allow public-sector employees access to vote. Most of the voting went peacefully on Wednesday, although some scuffles were reported and including the throwing of stones and shoes at Ahmed Shafiq, the former commander of the Army who is one of the frontrunners. Fifty million people are registered to vote, and preliminary results are expected over the weekend. There are 13 people running for president, although it is unclear what the president’s powers will be until the new constitution is approved.
Millions wait patiently in long lines to cast ballots.
Fifteen months after street protests began, Egyptian voters took to the polls in the country’s first-ever free presidential election. Millions reportedly waited in lines to cast their voters for one of the five leading candidates for the office once held by the iron-fisted Hosni Mubarak, who was knocked from power following the Arab Spring uprising. The country’s largest privately owned newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm, cried out, “Rise up, Egyptians!” on Wednesday morning, the first of two voting days. The race, said to have no reliable polls and a potential runoff next week, has been nearly impossible to predict. There were few reports of trouble, though lines were said to be longer at rural precincts than those in cities.
Amr Moussa and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh were the presumed favorites in Egypt’s first democratic elections, but these self-proclaimed centrists may falter, Mahmoud Salem writes, in a country that lacks centrist politics.
When I was in Washington, D.C., last week, the talk among the pundits from the think tanks and newspapers was all about whether the next president of Egypt will be either Amr Moussa or Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. In the absence of any real data or a clear frontrunner, everyone assumed that the two with the highest media profiles would be the ones entering the runoff. One week later, this no longer rings true. The betting now is that neither of them will make it. Why? Because they are both gray, and Egyptians are no longer interested in gray when it comes to their president, only black or white. So Fotouh and Moussa are now stagnating, and Mohamed Morsi, Ahmed Shafiq, and Hamdeen Sabahi are all rising in the polls. Why? Because they are not gray.
An Egyptian man walks past campaign posters of presidential candidates Mohamed Morsi (top) and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh in Cairo. (Mahmud Hams / AFP-Getty Images)
Fotouh and Moussa tried to position themselves as the two major centrist candidates from the start, one as the centrist Islamist candidate and the other as the centrist “civil” (secular is such a naughty word, we are told) candidate. Both hoped to rally different factions to get the biggest number of votes possible. Smart strategy, but not after a revolution, and especially not after the tumultuous year and a half that Egyptians have spent trying to figure out what exactly is going on in this country and where it is headed. The Egyptian voter would like some clarity, and neither one of those candidates offered them that, which was incredibly evident in the debate that took place between them last week.
Maybe someone should’ve explained to both men that you are not supposed to debate your opponent in presidential debates, but rather use the time and media attention to talk to the undecided and give them the messages you were prepped to deliver by your handlers, instead of coming off looking like bickering old hags.
When they weren’t attacking each other in the most undignified ways possible, both candidates gave the most centrist answers they could come up with. And both came out looking wishy-washy to undecided voters. That was one presidential debate that no one won, and it left the average Egyptian voter thinking that neither candidate should be elected president.
There are arguably six Egyptian voting blocs: Muslim Brotherhood, non–Muslim Brotherhood Islamists (mostly Salafis), liberals, revolutionaries (many leaning left and the majority are supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei), old-regime backers, and independents. Moussa was counting on liberals, old regime backers, independents, and some revolutionary voters who will see him as the only alternative to the Islamists. Fotouh was counting on getting the ElBaradei supporters, the independents, some liberals, and some of the Muslim Brotherhood votes. Both candidates hoped to amass enough votes to get into the runoff elections, and both are now facing the possibility that their calculations might be wrong.
Long lines reported.
Egyptians turned out in droves on Wednesday to vote in the nation’s first election since ousting former President Hosni Mubarak last year. Fifty million people are eligible to vote. The electorate is divided between Islamists and secularists and leaders of last year’s revolution against Mubarak’s former ministers. The four major frontrunners include Ahmed Shafiq, the former commander of the Air Force and briefly prime minister during the February 2011 protests; Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League; Mohamed Morsi, who heads the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party; and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent Islamist candidate. The new constitution has not yet been approved, and it is unclear what powers the president will have—but the election is still considered a landmark for Egypt.
Egyptians went to the polls May 23–24 to pick a democratically elected president—not only the first election since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, but the first of its kind in the country's 5,000-year history.
Egypt’s high court ruled the Islamist Parliament must dissolve immediately. By Vivian Salama.
A Country in Turmoil
Dan Ephron on Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who may be Egypt’s next president.