Mubarak's son promoted to No. 2 spot in ruling party

AP , CAIRO

Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 6

Egypt's ruling party appointed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's son to an important new committee in a move seen as further paving the way for the younger Mubarak to succeed his father.

Gamal Mubarak has risen dramatically in the ranks of the party since the National Democratic Party's (NDP) last convention was held in 2002 and is now No.2 in the party and head of the powerful policy-making committee.

Three years ago, there were angry protests against his succession. Recently, demonstrations have waned, but talk of succession picked up over the summer following rumors Mubarak was ill.

Traditionally, the presidential candidate had to be head of the party's political bureau. But in the spring, the Constitution was changed to require only that the candidate be chosen from the members of a new structure called the Supreme Committee.

Saturday's measure, passed during the opening day of the party's general convention, elected Gamal to that committee, which has 50 members. The move is seen as a more discreet way of setting him up as a presidential candidate than appointing him to the party's political bureau.

Analysts say the move provides the constitutional cover to elevate Mubarak to power, a subtle way to counter the growing challenge by the opposition.

Both father and son have denied the succession rumors. But many doubt those denials and point to a recent crackdown against the media as intimidation of potential critics of the transition.

Mubarak and his ruling party struck back -- sending a prominent independent newspaper chief to trial over articles he ran questioning Mubarak's health. The move was the latest in a string of trials of journalists that appears aimed at intimidating those who could oppose a transfer of power to Gamal.

Mubarak, who has led Egypt since 1981, was reelected as the leader of the NDP during the opening session of Saturday's convention.