Mubarak failed final test

Hosni Mubarak survived assassination attempts and wave after wave of Mideast crises, a solid ally of the West whose stable image reassured many Egyptians.

He ended his presidency today as a symbol of what was wrong with Egypt: the repression, the corruption, the lost hopes of a swelling, impoverished class.



Mubarak, in power for nearly three decades, was such a fixture that his exit from power was hard to conceive for most Egyptians just a short time ago.



Year after year, as the president aged and ailed, people watched his scripted appearances on television - the suit and tie, the wagging finger, the "father of the nation" aura.



After protests and upheaval swept Egypt, Mubarak sought to portray himself as the only obstacle to chaos, as he had done successfully so many times in the past. Yet attacks by his supporters, who roamed central Cairo with impunity, suggested that violence lay at the core of his system.



As he clung to power, the status quo he personified became increasingly loathed.



And as it turns out, beneath the stern facade of authority, the 82-year-old was a figure in steep decline, unable to check boiling currents of popular fury, or harness the history unfolding in his nation of 80 million - the largest in the Arab world.



A former pilot and air force general with a combative, stubborn streak, he took tentative steps toward democratic reform early in his presidency but pulled back toward the dictatorial style that eventually propelled the protests that began on January 25.



Assessments described Mubarak as a man deeply suspicious of reform. A 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Cairo, released by the secret-sharing WikiLeaks website, called him "a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative," and with "little time for idealistic goals."









It noted that Mubarak disapproved of the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein of Iraq, which he believed was in need of a "'tough, strong military officer who is fair"' as leader.



"This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak's own view of himself as someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people," the cable said. "In Mubarak's mind, it is far better to let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole."



Mubarak was long credited by his Western allies with keeping the peace with Israel and keeping Egypt free of the grip of Islamic extremism.



In a searing experience that defined his outlook, he was sitting on a military viewing stand next to his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, when Islamic militants assassinated Sadat in 1981. A week later, with Egypt in trauma, Mubarak was president.



He lacked the charisma of his two predecessors, the peacemaker Sadat and the Arab nationalist, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and served in their shadows. He struggled with the problems that have bedevilled the Arab world: choking corruption, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and fighting militancy. Economic reforms spurred growth, but the fruits trickled only to a few.



He carved out a niche as a key negotiator on the Palestinian crisis, bolstered by billions in US aid. He engineered Egypt's return to the Arab fold after nearly a decade out in the cold over its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.



Early on, Mubarak put down an insurgency by Muslim extremists, whose ranks had produced Sadat's assassins and some of the future al Qaida leaders. In the 1990s, he fought hard against another resurgence of Muslim militants whose attacks included the slaughter of dozens of foreign tourists at the temple city of Luxor.



Eli Shaked, who served as Israel's ambassador to Egypt from 2003-2005, described Mubarak as "a strong presence, not charismatic but with a heavy body like a fighter bomber, and very level-headed."



Shaked said Mubarak met visiting Israeli officials with at least three top advisers by his side, often consulting with them and demonstrating a detailed knowledge of Israeli politics.



The Israeli said Mubarak liked "political jokes and witticisms," but was short on creativity: "The man is completely status quo."



Mohammed Hosni Mubarak was born on May 4, 1928, in the village of Kafr el-Moseilha in the Nile delta province of Menoufia. His family, like Sadat's and Nasser's, was lower middle class.



After joining the air force in 1950, Mubarak moved up the ranks as a bomber pilot and instructor and rose to leadership positions. He earned nationwide fame as commander of the air force during the 1973 Middle East war, and was vice president when Sadat was assassinated - an attack Mubarak escaped with only a minor hand injury.



In his early days, Mubarak made popular moves that held up promise of a more open society, including freeing 1,500 politicians, journalists and clerics jailed during Sadat's last months in office.



But hopes for broader reform dimmed. Mubarak was re-elected in staged, one-man referendums in which he routinely won more than 90 % approval. He became more aloof, carefully choreographing his public appearances, and his authoritarian governance, buttressed by harsh emergency laws, fuelled resentment.



Age took its toll on the president, who was once an avid squash player with a consistent style that matched his personality. He became hard of hearing, and was so devastated by the death of a 12-year-old grandson in 2009 that he cancelled a trip to the United States. Last year, he had gallbladder surgery in Germany.



Egypt's influence in the Middle East, meanwhile, waned as the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah and their patron, Iran, gained momentum and followers. The growing profile of Turkey, a democracy led by an Islam-inspired government, also chipped away at Egypt's heavyweight stature in the region.



In 2005, Mubarak held the country's first contested presidential election, an event marred by charges of voter fraud and intimidation. He retrenched when opponents made gains in ensuing parliamentary elections, launching a harsh campaign of arrests against the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest and best organised opposition group.



Before the protests began, Mubarak had been silent on whether he intended to seek re-election in September. But the quick rise of his son, Gamal, through the ruling party caused immense anxiety.



The fear that Mubarak was grooming Gamal, a wealthy businessman, to succeed him, left many Egyptians feeling trapped in the past, deprived of change and renewal. Then, the uprising in Tunisia delivered an electrifying message: an old order can be ousted.



Mubarak initially responded to protests by saying he would not seek another term, and his government said Gamal Mubarak would not run, either. But the president rejected demands that he step down immediately, telling ABC News that he'd like to leave but feared the country would sink deeper into chaos without him.



It was a persuasive argument for 29 years, but in 2011 it was overwhelmed by the cries of huge crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square: "Leave! Leave!".

News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn