What Would a New Egypt Look Like?
by Alejandro Moreiras
If Hosni Mubarak vacates his Presidential seat to make way for free elections in Egypt, what would a new government look like?
At the moment the figures most likely to capture a leadership position in such a scenario are Omar Suleiman and Mohamed El Baradei. Suleiman is an old hat, Mubarak just made him Vice-President (a post that did not previously exist) in the hope to appease the massive protesting crowds. People like him, he has the reputation of a moral man, and before these demonstrations he was considered a possibility for succession, he or the son Gamal Mubarak. But as recently as this was, it was another time. In the past two weeks the social and political climate in Egypt has changed dramatically.
Another, more viable opposition candidate is Mohamed El Baradei–our old friend from the IAEA in the bygone days of Bush’s Iraq. Points against him are that he has lived abroad for decades, and, the protests having started without him, carries the air of an opportunist. But he has long held his ear to the grindstone, and has kept a political profile through blogs and journals. There is no doubt that he is gathering a lot of momentum in Cairo. A few hours ago he demanded Mubarak’s resignation and ouster in the city’s central Tahriri Square, to the cheer of thousands.
Despite the Egyptian public’s outcry, in the millions and by now almost a week old, there is no entrenched political opposition in Egypt. This is because in three decades of rule Mubarak has not allowed the social or political space for one to develop. In more ways than one the opposition is developing along with the mass protests.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest organization in Egypt with a history of measured hostility and success against the Egyptian government. But they do not represent the majority of Egyptians–at least I don’t think so. They are officially banned but when they run candidates for parliamentary positions they manage around 10% of the vote, despite the many obstacles. This number would no doubt rise under more accommodating political circumstances.
The Brotherhood has backed ElBaradei in his desire to form a unity government on the basis of opposition to Mubarak. This is big news for two reasons: the Brotherhood has finally made their position on these events clear; and it significantly increases El Baradei’s legitimacy and the chances of of the Egyptian President to capitulate. Of course, everything hinges on Mubarak.
This Sunday evening Cairo began heating up again after a strong military roundup in the morning and afternoon hours. The protests’ proven resilience and the growing political forces of opposition make for a very serious threat to President Mubarak. It is becoming clear that his government’s days are numbered.
Much depends on the Egyptian army. So far, to the utter glee of the populace, it has shown its sympathies to be with the demonstrators. After all conscription is mandatory in Egypt, so the army is a representative pool of the male population. But if things turn increasingly unsafe, they may follow orders to restore stability based on a real need to do so.
It is a revolution, for now still operating on “Main St.” What every Egyptian knows is that ultimately political power is concentrated in Mubarak’s hands, and for real political change to be possible, he must leave.
[To read more about Egypt at As It Ought to Be, go here.]
Alejandro Moreiras is a graduate student in Religious Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and teacher of languages and International Studies at Carolina Friends School and Camelot Academy in Durham, NC. He holds a BA from Hampshire College with a Five College Certificate in Middle Eastern Studies. Questions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org To read more work by Alejandro Moreiras visit: http://rumynations.wordpress.com/.