Egypt Presidential Elections 2012: Mubarak Death Would Unleash Chaos

After showing little to no emotion during the revolution that engulfed Egypt last year, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak suffered an emotional breakdown last week following his conviction for suppressing protests. Since then, his medical condition has been steadily deteriorating and his behavior has become increasingly despondent. Media reports indicate that, after the conviction, Mubarak refused to leave the helicopter and was reportedly crying when transferred from the International Medical Center in Cairo to the Tora Prison Hospital for three hours. 

As of Monday, the heart of the seemingly heartless former dictator had reportedly failed twice, and, though rumors of a coma were denied, doctors confirmed he was in very poor health, though on Wednesday, his condition had improved. As the second round of presidential elections near, the breakdown in Mubarak’s health is certain to add another layer of uncertainty to the already tumultuous political situation in Egypt. 

Mubarak’s conviction angered many people and inspired protest against the conviction from both those who still support Mubarak and those who are angry that he was not sentenced to death. 

Around 200 pro-Mubarak supporters began a protest Saturday that they said would continue until the president was transferred from prison to a hospital. Pro-Mubarak supporters point to Shafiq’s candidacy and subsequent success in the preliminary elections as evidence that Mubarak still has strong support throughout the country and that many are sick of the revolutionaries. 

In direct contrast, a protest of thousands in Tahrir Square demonstrated widespread dissatisfaction with the leniency of the Mubarak verdict. Many wanted to see Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly sentenced to death, and were angered by Mubarak’s acquittal on corruption charges. Of course, a large contingent of the population is content to let the former president serve out a life sentence, which more moderate citizens say is appropriate justice; however, in the boiling pot that is Egypt, and especially Cairo, right now, protesters on both sides seem poised to take action. 

In particular, Mubarak’s death so soon after his conviction could lead to extreme unrest from revolutionaries who may feel that his sentence went unfulfilled. This sentiment is likely to be exacerbated by lawyers and the state allowing Mubarak’s removal to a private hospital, permitting more family visits than would be allowed in a "normal" prison, and allowing his sons, who are being held on charges of insider trading, to be near him in the hospital complex. This threat of unrest is likely to be compounded by anger at the decision that the Isolation Law is unconstitutional and the increased chance of a potential Shafiq victory. Revolutionaries may see Shafiq’s eligibility and, potentially, victory as vindication for Mubarak and will experience no sense of transitional justice. There are also fears that, in the event of a Shafiq victory, Mubarak’s legacy will be scrubbed of wrongdoings, and repression of those who opposed him will continue. 

Mubarak’s health seems at first glance to be largely irrelevant to the elections; however, as his heart continues to fail, there are many who demand he account for the remaining blood on his hands. It is only a matter of time before the beating permanently stops, and when it does, his death could prove to be a very potent catalyst for further uproar and unrest.