Suleiman Is Likely to Lead Egypt

Wednesday, 11 Apr 2012 02:52 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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Several candidates, representing a wide range of political views, are vying to become the next president of Egypt.

In a move that came as a surprise to many, Omar Suleiman, the former head of Egyptian intelligence under Mubarak, has thrown his name into the ring.

egyptelection.jpg
A supporter of Omar Suleiman holds a poster that says, "Run, run, don't leave us to the Muslim Brotherhood."
(Getty Images)
Despite a strong field of candidates, it is likely that Suleiman will emerge as the next president of Egypt based largely on his ability to draw wide support from the Egyptian people, the military, and other important factions.

Here is my assessment of Suleiman’s broad base of support:

Egyptian People

Egyptians are losing trust in the Islamists and in their ability to lead the nation.

In addition, many are questioning if the revolution was even beneficial to the country.

In such difficult times — when people feel that security has been lost and that the country is teetering on economic collapse — many people prefer to have a strong and experienced leader like Suleiman at the helm.

In addition, millions of the more than the 10-12 million Egyptian Christians will give their support to Suleiman to avoid being ruled by the oppressive Sharia law that might otherwise relegate them to second-class citizenship under an Islamist presidency.

Military

It is in the interest of the military to have someone with a military background like Suleiman as the next president.

This would provide assurances that the next president is unlikely to turn against the military in the future.

Wealthy Arab Countries

Several wealthy Gulf countries suspended their support of Egypt during the critical post-revolution period.

This is partially because the success of the Muslim Brotherhood would encourage the population of these countries to follow the same path and start revolutions against the ruling royal families.

It is simply not in the interest of the ruling families to elevate the Egyptian revolution to a model for the region.

This fear from the success of the Muslim Brotherhood can manifest itself as different forms of support for Suleiman — who is actually trusted by many Arab leaders.

Tourism Industry

Millions of Egyptians depend on the tourism industry as their main source of income.

Damage to the tourism industry has already been felt since the Jan. 25 revolution and the fear that Islamists will bring a complete end to this industry under Sharia law is likely to result in support for Suleiman since he will be seen as someone who will protect this industry.

Liberals

Many liberals were idealists and preferred to see an Islamist in power rather than see a military leader.

This has changed since liberals now have had to come to terms with the reality of an Islamist government.

Liberals realize that their lives could be worse now than if Mubarak had stayed in power — at least with respect to personal freedoms.

Consequently, many Egyptian liberals are changing their minds that democracy under these circumstances will bring them more liberty.

Liberals are more inclined to support Suleiman merely to avoid the nightmare of having Egypt become a religious state like Iran.

Tribal Mentality in Upper Egypt

Suleiman is originally from the “Al-Saiied” (Upper Egypt). Despite the widespread influence of Islamism in this part of the country, many people in the “Al-Saiied” have a very strong tribal mentality that is likely to make them choose Suleiman over other candidates.

In the “shame and honor” culture of Al-Saiied, people in Upper Egypt feel that it is more honorable for them to have the president of Egypt come from Al-Saiied.

Indeed, they risk shame if they do not choose a candidate from their tribe.
This tribal factor can also benefit the few other candidates who are from Al-Saiied.

However, Suleiman is likely to have enjoyed good relations as the former head of intelligence with the leaders of the tribes in Al-Saiied. This will significantly help his presidential chances.

Salafi Islamic Groups

The reality is that some of the Salafi Islamic groups and leaders were strong supporters of the Mubarak regime.

Many intellectuals in the country actually believe that Egyptian intelligence played a major role in infiltrating Salafi groups and gained their support for the former regime.

This relationship can help Suleiman gain the support of some — if not many — Salafi groups.

In fact, according to reputable sources, Suleiman has already started building Salafi support.

Sufi Support

Suleiman belongs to “Al-Ashraf,” or the family decedents of the Prophet Mohamed.

This is sufficient to bring millions of Sufis — who have the prophet, his family, and his decedents as a central part of their Islamic believe — to support Suleiman.

Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical and relatively peaceful form of Islam, are likely to choose Suleiman as he is seen as a Sufi by some of them. He is also seen as a powerful man who will protect Sufi shrines from violent attacks by Salafi Islamists.

Western Support

Despite the repeated attempts of the Muslim Brotherhood to reassure the West regarding issues of concern — such as the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt — Suleiman remains a much better option for the West as he can be trusted on critical issues.

The brotherhood has already broken promises several times since coming to power.

While Suleiman’s ties to the former Mubarak regime will pose an obstacle for him and may stir some anger, he is likely to benefit more from his position of head of Egyptian intelligence than be hindered by it.

There is no clear evidence to tie him to corruption. And let’s not forget that Suleiman has a very real advantage in knowing the weaknesses of his Islamist rivals as well as the dirty tactics they used to win the recent parliamentary elections.

The loss of hope in the revolution, along with a new hope by many Egyptians that Suleiman can return the country to stability is likely to make Suleiman the next president of Egypt.

The lingering question that has yet to be answered is whether Suleiman can in fact return stability to Egypt.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.


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