Sadat's handpicked successor, Husni Mubarak, was overwhelmingly approved in a national referendum on October 24, 1981. Sadat appointed Mubarak vice president of the state in 1975 and of the NDP in 1978. Mubarak, who was born in 1928 in Lower Egypt and had spent his career in the armed forces, was not a member of the Free Officers' movement. He had trained as a pilot in the Soviet Union and became air force chief of staff in 1969 and deputy minister of war in 1972.
In a speech to the People's Assembly in November 1981, Mubarak outlined the principles of his government's policy and spoke about the future he wanted for Egypt. Infitah would continue, and there would be no return to the restrictive days of Nasser. Mubarak called for an infitah of production, however, rather than of consumption, that would benefit all of society and not just the wealthy few. Food subsidies would remain, and imports of unnecessary luxury goods would be curtailed. Opposition parties would be allowed. The peace treaty with Israel would be observed. Thus, Mubarak sought to chart a middle course between the conflicting legacies of Nasser and Sadat.
Since 1981 Mubarak has allowed more overt political activity. Slowly, parties and newspapers began to function again, and political opponents jailed by Sadat were released. At the time of the 1984 election, five parties were allowed to function in addition to the ruling NDP. The left-wing opposition consisted of the National Progressive Unionist Party, a grouping of socialists led by Khalid Muhi ad Din, and the Socialist Labor Party. The Wafd resurfaced and won a court case against its prohibition. One religious party was licensed, the Umma. Not officially represented were the communists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and avowed Nasserites, although all three tendencies were represented in other parties.
In the 1984 election, a party had to win at least 8 percent of the vote to be represented in the Assembly. The NDP received more than 70 percent of the vote (391 seats). The Wafd, the only other party to gain any seats, won fifty-seven. The NPUP received only 7 percent of the votes and consequently lost them all to the NDP. There were some complaints that the election was rigged, but no serious challenge was mounted against the results.
In addition to domestic programs, Mubarak was concerned to regain the Sinai Peninsula for Egypt and to return his country to the Arab fold. One of Mubarak's first acts was to pledge to honor the peace treaty with Israel. In April 1982, the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai took place as scheduled. A multinational force of observers took up positions in Sinai to monitor the peace. Egypt was allowed to station only one army division in Sinai.
In 1983 Egypt's isolation in the Arab world began to end. In that year, Arafat met Mubarak in Cairo after the PLO leader had been expelled from Lebanon under Syrian pressure. In January 1984, Egypt was readmitted unconditionally to the Islamic Conference Organization. In November 1987, an Arab summit resolution allowed the Arab countries to resume diplomatic relations with Egypt. This action was taken largely as a result of the Iran-Iraq War and Arab alarm over the Iranian offensive on Iraqi territories at the end of 1986 and throughout January and February 1987. On Egypt's side, its economic crisis worsened, and it needed economic assistance from the Arab oil states. Thus, the summit resolution amounted to an exchange of Egyptian security assistance in the Persian Gulf crisis for Arab aid to Egypt's economy. The summit indicated that Mubarak, in attempting to steer a middle course between the imposing legacies of Nasser and Sadat, had brought Egypt back into the Arab fold and into the center of Middle East peace making.
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