Columns / Discourse / February 2, 2011

World Politics Corner: Revolt in Egypt

The lesson: Amid all the rhetoric here for “revolution,” it is easy to forget what that word really means. In comes Tunisia and Egypt to remind us. It is messy, and even after the blood has been wiped up, there are scars to heal.

How are some in this part of the world treating it? “What we need is for more Americans to wake up. This scenario that is playing out before our eyes in Egypt will be our future too.” That was a comment on Al Jazeera English by an American named “Pat.” There were many more concurring comments.

For those wishing for revolution: get over it. There is a system in place that may not be the most efficient (if you call revolutions efficient), but that allows a change of government often enough. You don’t need the bloodshed, just vote or sue.

After you have 30 years under an unpopular dictator (unpopular being the key word), then shout the battle cry loud and strong. Even if Obama is a socialist bent on becoming a tyrant like Stalin, you can vote him out. If he prevents that (which he won’t), then go for it. And for those who didn’t like Bush, you should have gotten more people in 2004. That’s the truth of it.

Egypt has legitimate need for the revolution. No one was going to fight for Egypt except the Egyptians themselves. No one could have assumed that without the protests, Mubarak would have eventually said “Ok Egypt, I hear you, I’m gone.”

Revolution is not pretty, world.

The politics: After that preamble, what can we expect from Egypt at this point? There have been protests before in the region, but none like this and the fact that President Mubarak is canceling the old government reflects that. He also mentioned that he will not seek re-election but will maintain his post until the elections are over. The elephant in the room is nudging me, so I’m just going to say it: when September comes, don’t be surprised if there are many delays in the voting process. I mean in addition to the information block. Maybe something worse…

The popular vote: Although this is painful to say, the fact that the elections will be held does not ensure they will be fair. If Egypt was opposed to Mubarak before, then how did his party win last December in the runoff elections? Could that happen again? Not exactly.

It would not be surprising if Mubarak’s party was demolished but the people in it still ran for government office. It would not be surprising if Mubarak’s Vice President, Omar Suleiman, were to succeed him. Mubarak’s son was expected to win the elections in December runoffs until he fled the country. Mubarak then picked Suleiman to be his Vice President. These are part of the characteristics of the country’s political system people have come to expect.

The key is the turmoil. And at this point it may make all the difference.

If the people of Egypt keep their vigor after the elections and ensure that they get real representation, the two unsurprising notes above may just be skipped over altogether. Maybe. It all depends on the actions of Mubarak and how seriously he takes the protests. He has not mentioned them in his speeches, although he addresses the complaints they hold. The greater the threat, the more Mubarak may rethink the game plan. The fact that Mubarak has chosen not to flee the country like Tunisia’s former president Ben Ali shows that he may not be as intimidated as he should be. There is a reason most ousted leaders leave their countries: there are people after their heads.

The new people who might lead the transition are Muhammad Al Baradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the Muslim Brotherhood (who are not a terrorist or Islamic Extremist group as some American media likes to portray them). The Muslim Brotherhood will not get global support, I’m sure.

Another two obstacles are:

1) The lack of real world support (and by that I mean governments, not people). President Obama hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of Mubarak needing to leave, which shows that the U.S. is sticking by their man – even if he stands against all of those nice American ideals that the U.S. had to create in other places (Hint: it starts with an “I”).

2) The Military support of Mubarak. All signs point to the military siding with the protestors, as they see themselves as the protectors of Egypt, not Mubarak, according to Bruce K. Rutherford, author of “Egypt After Mubarak,” in his interview with the BBC. So this may be going down in the list of obstacles in order or priority.

What may be expected at this point? Depending on how volatile it gets after Mubarak’s latest announcement, the President may leave, and a real transition will begin. Every day counts in this movement, and the people want Mubarak gone. By the time we wake up tomorrow morning, there may be more news to come.

Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.

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