CAIRO, March 8 (Reuters) - Egypt’s calcified politics has long been viewed an asset in a turbulent region but as President Hosni Mubarak has aged with no designated successor foreign investors are starting to wonder if it might be a liability.
Mubarak, 81, has not said if he will run again in 2011, fuelling talk about who will rule next. If he does not, many Egyptians think he will hand power to his son. But there are other potential candidates or influential figures in the frame.
Below are outlines of individuals or groups and how well they are placed to put up a presidential bid:[ID:nLDE62501T]
GAMAL MUBARAK, PRESIDENT’S SON AND RULING PARTY POLITICIAN
The most common view is that Mubarak’s son Gamal, 46, a former investment banker and the younger of his two sons, is being groomed for office. Both father and son deny such plans.
Gamal heads the policy secretariat of the ruling National Democratic Party and allies in key economic posts in the cabinet have implemented liberalisation measures lauded by investors.
But unlike all three presidents since the Egyptian monarchy was overthrown in 1952, Gamal has no military background, which analysts say could prove a stumbling block to succession.
OMAR SULEIMAN, INTELLIGENCE CHIEF
Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman is most commonly tipped after Gamal. Suleiman, a close aide to the president, has emerged as a key mediator in the Middle East peace process.
Analysts say such an assignment shows a bond of trust with Mubarak, who likes to emphasise Egypt’s leading role in regional peace making. He is not often heard in public.
Even if Suleiman does not emerge as an actual candidate for succession, many say he may serve as a kingmaker.
DARK HORSE MILITARY CANDIDATE
A dark horse military candidate could emerge, analysts say. All three presidents since 1952 — Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Mubarak — have been military officers.
Mubarak, vice president before taking office in 1981, has proved a more enduring president than critics at the time had expected. Mubarak himself has not appointed a vice president.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, FORMER U.N. NUCLEAR WATCHDOG HEAD
Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said he would consider running but has said this depended on changes to the constitution and guarantees of a fair vote. Demands analysts say are unlikely to be met.
When he returned in February for a brief visit to Egypt about 1,000 supporters met him at the airport. But that was a fraction of the tens of thousands who have signed up to Facebook and other support sites, highlighting the challenge of turning Web activism into an on-the-street campaign.
When asked about ElBaradei, Mubarak said in Germany this month he was welcome to run but bristled when asked in the same news conference whether ElBaradei was a national hero. "We do not need a national hero, here or there," the president said.
AYMAN NOUR, OPPOSITION POLITICIAN
Ayman Nour came in a distant second to Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005. He was then jailed for forgery, charges he says were politically motivated.
Nour, freed on health grounds last year after serving more than three years of a five-year term, has said he wants to run in 2011 after his Ghad (Tomorrow) party nominated him.
He has said he will challenge a rule that bars him from running for any political office for at least five years after the end of his original term, which rules him out of the 2011 race. Analysts say he is unlikely to succeed in ending the ban.
AHMED NAZIF, PRIME MINISTER
Powers were handed to the prime minister during Mubarak’s surgery this month but Ahmed Nazif is seen as an able technocrat without political clout to be a presidential contender. He may guide economic policy but lacks broader influence, analysts say.
Under the constitution, if the president dies or is permanently incapacitated, the presidency passes to parliament’s speaker. An election must be held within 60 days of that.
MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, BIGGEST OPPOSITION GROUP
The Muslim Brotherhood is main challenger to the ruling National Democratic Party in parliament, where its members has a fifth of the seats, far more than any other opposition group.
But the group, whose members are often detained in security sweeps, is banned under a rule preventing religious parties, so a Brotherhood presidential candidate would have to run as an independent — a daunting task under Egypt’s election rules.
An independent needs endorsements from 250 elected members across parliament and local councils, overwhelmingly dominated by Mubarak’s party, which all but rules out a Brotherhood bid.
Because of an ongoing government crackdown, analysts and the Brotherhood itself say the group will even struggle to match its 2005 parliamentary success in the 2010 vote for parliament.
SENIOR MEMBERS OF OPPOSITION PARTIES
A presidential bid could come from any established political party, of which there are several, provided the group is represented in parliament’s upper or lower houses and the candidate has held a senior party position for at least a year.
Opposition parties, like the Wafd established when Egypt had a monarchy, ran in 2005 but made little impression in the vote, which analysts say is because state suppression of dissent has left such parties fragmented and with little grassroots support.
ElBaradei has so far rejected calls to run under the banner of a party, which could enable him to get on the ballot.
(Compiled by Edmund Blair; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)