Revolutionary uprisings are often characterised as collisions between a popular democratic force - “the people” - and a solitary yet powerful individual – “the dictator”. This has certainly been the case with the Arab Spring, which has seen Tunisians depose Ben Ali, Libyans, with outside assistance, topple Gaddafi and, Egyptians bring down Mubarak.
This kind of binary interpretation is inadequate for three reasons. The first is that it fails to take into account the diverse nature of the so-called ‘revolutionaries’ who often represent more than just a single amorphous interest group. The second is that it doesn’t acknowledge the underlying political, economic and social structures on which the “authority” of the powerful figurehead is based. And the third is that it overlooks the role of other players who help to maintain the status-quo or suppress democracy.
This last point is particularly important with regard to Egypt. Hosni Mubarak’s regime could not be described as a one man rule. Although Mubarak had been the leading figure in Egyptian politics for three decades, his command of the state was far from absolute.
He was only a single member of a military-political elite which made all the major decisions about Egypt’s economic and social affairs. So who were the other members, and where are they now – more than a year since the January 25 uprising?
Gamal Mubarak, Hosni’s younger son, was for years his heir apparent. After returning to Egypt in the mid-90s, Gamal began to climb the ranks of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). By the late 90s, he was a leading figure of the neo-liberal wing of the party and helped implement the radical privatisation programme which is believed to have sowed the seeds of the revolution a decade or so later. Today, Gamal and his elder brother Alaa are facing charges of corruption and abuse of power.
As Mubarak’s interior minister between 1997 and 2011, Habib el-Adli helped direct the regime’s vast security apparatus. This meant that, for more than ten years, he was directly involved in government efforts to repress dissent and political opposition. It is hardly surprising then that his removal was one of the first demands made by the Tahrir Square protestors.
After Mubarak was deposed, el-Adli was arrested and charged with fraud, money laundering, and ordering the security forces to fire on demonstrators. In May 2011, he was convicted of the first two charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison. His trial for the third is on-going.
A wealthy steel magnate and businessman, Ahmed Ezz was among the most influential and most reviled members of the NDP. He served on the budget committee of the Egyptian parliament and helped Gamal drive through the neo-liberalisation of the Egyptian economy in the 1990s and early 2000s – a process from which he allegedly profited. In September 2011, he was found guilty of corruption, fined $111 million, and jailed for ten years.
As Mubarak’s Minister of Information, Anas al-Fiqqi was another close confidant of Gamal. His position was important because it involved control over the state-run TV and radio stations. Last year he was handed a seven year prison term for giving away broadcasting rights to cover Egyptian football to a private satellite channel – a move which may have cost the state millions.
Omar Suleiman has been a stalwart of the Egyptian military establishment since the 1960s. In the early 1990s, he became director of military intelligence. Although he wasn’t a member of the NDP, he built a strong relationship with Mubarak. He is also known to have had very close links to the US intelligence service the CIA – and thus thought to have been pivotal in maintaining Egypt’s relations with Israel.
In a desperate bid to save his regime at the height of the 2011 protests, Mubarak appointed Suleiman as his vice-president and interim successor. Suleiman later testified in the trial against Mubarak – although his testimony has not been made public. His role in post-Mubarak politics is unclear - as he has not been seen in public for months. He is yet to be charged with any offences.
A long-standing member of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), Tantawi is the commander in chief of Egyptian forces. Following the collapse of the Mubarak regime, he became - and remains - Egypt’s de facto leader.
Since taking over from Mubarak, he has become the focus of public discontent, much of which has been provoked by the regime’s use of military force to violently quell protests. Tantawi’s ascendency to power serves as reminder of how threadbare the line between military and civilian rule is in Egypt.
Susan Mubarak, wife of former president Hosni Mubarak, was a formal member of the deposed regime – even though she had no official role in the government. Her significance is derived from the widespread allegations of corruption which surround her.
Some believe she is responsible for the embezzlement of approximately $300 million worth of state funds – although others, even without objective evidence, estimate that the Mubarak family’s wealth outside Egypt amounts to between $40 and $70 billion. She remains with her husband as his trial progresses.
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