Lex Petros: Mubarak Resigns

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mubarak Resigns

After 19 days, Hosni Mubarak resigns, news of which was delivered on air by Omar Suleiman in a one minute sombre appearance. Tahrir Square erupted with cries of "Freedom" and "Allahu akbar" accompanies by detonation of fireworks and all sorts of activity. This development came a day after Hosni Mubarak's broadcast so brazenly declaring his refusal to bow down to "foreign demands" to step down amidst the cries of his own people willing to shed blood to see him out!

The people's demands seemingly met after 19 days of unrelenting protests...

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei says Egypt for a first time has a chance "to be democratic, to be free, to have a sense of dignity, of freedom". A time of elation for the Egyptian people and probably a time of suspense for Israel, USA, the rest of the Arab World.

Hosni Mubarak handed over power to the Egyptian Army's Supreme Council who is supposed to ensure a smooth transition of his departure from office. It's strange that the military's infinite patience (or seemingly so) has for the entire duration of the riots, been sidelined and merely scratched on the surface during media coverage. The attention was drawn to the premier, the nation, the people and the rest of the world having a stake in the outcome.

The army presents a neutral arbiter between contending opponents, but it has significant interests of its own to defend. The basic structure of the Egyptian state as it now exists has benefited the military. The practical demands of the protesters were fairly simple: end the state of emergency, hold new elections, and grant the freedom to form parties without state interference. But these demands would amount to opening up the political space to everyone across Egypt's social and political structure. That would involve constitutional and statutory changes- e.g. reforming Egypt as a parliamentary rather than a presidential system, in which a freely elected majority selects the prime minister (who is now appointed by the president). These changes would do away with power structure the Egyptian army created in 1952's coup.

We must bear in mind that the military has access to the ruling party (NDP) and owns industries which controls 5-20% of Egypt's economy. A military coup is always remotely possible if their interests would be undermined by the interim government.

We are now witnessing history unfolding and the rise of a new regime or at least, a harbinger of one.

Of course, there's the Muslim Brotherhood- it must be remembered that they were target of arrests during Hosni Mubarak's time and all of a sudden, the power realisation seems to be a lot more realistic. Their goal is to institute an Islamic state by political means, not violence.

The West will be worried if democracy comes to quickly in the form of speedy empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood whom USA does not know how they will react to American influence. USA had expanded billions of dollars to back Egypt during Hosni Mubarak's time which he had very little to show for. Under Hosni Mubarak's rule, Egypt kept peace with Israel and close ties with the West. His government was an important ally of the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He also earned Western support for his efforts to suppress Islamic extremism- in the 1990s he waged a war against Islamist fundamentalism and extremism from which, the military's role evolved further.

But, a spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood (or so I've read) has told CNN that MB has vowed not to field a presidential candidate as they only desire representation via seats in parliament but does not want a majority. In the Egyptian political arena for the last 3 weeks, we all know things can seemingly take a turn without a moment's notice, so this will be left to be seen. If the military's interests is guaranteed and their industries protected, we will see if this will still be the case when they have the army's backing.


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