U.S. ambassador tells Hillary Clinton that President will win rigged election next year, his 30th in power
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s long-serving President, is likely to seek re-election next year and will “inevitably” win a poll that will not be free and fair, the U.S. ambassador to Cairo, Margaret Scobey, predicted in a secret cable to Hillary Clinton last year.
In her message, Ms. Scobey discussed Mr. Mubarak’s quasi-dictatorial leadership, his critical views of George Bush and U.S. policy in the Middle East and the highly uncertain prospects for a succession.
The disclosures come the day after Mohamed ElBaradei, the former U.N. nuclear agency chief, announced he would not run for the presidency and urged all Egyptians to boycott the vote. Mr. ElBaradei dismissed last month’s parliamentary elections as fraudulent.
“We will not participate in this farce next year in the presidential election if changes to the Constitution are not completed,” he said. Mr. Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981, has not yet declared if he will seek a sixth consecutive term.
Ms. Scobey’s view, in a May 2009 cable, is that Mr. Mubarak, 82, who heads the Arab world’s most populous and influential nation, is most likely to die in office: “The next... elections are scheduled for 2011 and if Mubarak is still alive it is likely he will run again and, inevitably, win,” Ms. Scobey writes. “When asked about succession he states that the process will follow the Egyptian constitution. Despite incessant whispered discussions, no one in Egypt knows who will eventually succeed Mubarak nor under what circumstances.
“The most likely contender is presidential son Gamal Mubarak; some suggest that intelligence chief Omar Soliman might seek the office; or dark horse Arab League secretary general Amre Moussa might run.
“Mubarak’s ideal of a strong but fair leader would seem to discount Gamal Mubarak to some degree, given Gamal’s lack of military experience, and may explain Mubarak’s hands-off approach to the succession question,” said the cable.
Ms. Scobey, writing ahead of Mr. Mubarak’s U.S. visit in August last year, gave her impressions of Egypt’s leader based on personal encounters. She said the President was a political survivor who maintained his grip on power by avoiding risks. She noted his opinion of the former U.S. President George Bush, as “naive, controlled by subordinates and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran’s regional influence”.
“On several occasions Mubarak has lamented the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam. He routinely notes that Egypt did not like Saddam and does not mourn him, but at least he held the country together and countered Iran.
“Mubarak continues to state that in his view Iraq needs a ‘tough, strong military officer who is fair’ as leader. This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak’s own view of himself.” Ms. Scobey reports that Mr. Mubarak, “a classic Egyptian secularist”, believes U.S. interventions in the Middle East routinely result in disaster and that another is looming in Afghanistan and Pakistan as religious extremists gain influence.
In Mr. Mubarak’s view, U.S. pressure for reform in the Shah’s Iran pre-1979, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and U.S. support for elections in Gaza that brought Hamas to power in 2006, were all policies that backfired calamitously.
Ms. Scobey said Mr. Mubarak believed U.S. attempts to encourage political reform and inclusiveness in Egypt ahead of the 2011 polls were similarly misconceived and had only reinforced his determination to resist them.