Hope for Egypt


Protest in Egypt

Protest in Egypt

These Egyptian demonstrations are truly amazing.  Given their size & scope, I’m nothing short of impressed by the peacefulness of the masses.  In the intermittent absence of police and military, demonstrators have resorted to keeping peace and deterring looting.  They even set up roadblocks to check for looting.  All this has happened despite the Egyptian government’s attempts to disorganize the demonstrators and society in general.

It appears elections are the imminent outcome.  Let’s hope they are fair, and the new government represents all its citizens, not 1-2 groups against the rest.

I will not portend to know what’s best for the Egyptian people between keeping the government they have versus forcing the creation of a new government.  Even they don’t know what is best because they don’t know what kind of government will form.  If the civility of the uprising could be any kind of omen, I would guess a government formed from this will be more representative than what they currently have.  Hopefully, it will also be as stable in the region, or more so, than the Mubarak government.

Anwar el Sadat

Anwar el Sadat in January 1980

Anwar el Sadat became President in 1970.  He formed a multi-party government.   In 1973, he attacked Israel to take back Israeli gains from the 6-Day War 6-years before.  Sadat engaged in peace discussions with Israel beginning in 1974 and furthered cooperation with the U.S.  In 1979, Sadat signed a peace accord with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin recognizing Israel as a legitimate nation.  This eventually led to Egypt’s expulsion from the Arab League, the Arab League headquarters move to Tunis (interesting tie to today), and in October, 1981, his assassination.

A plot by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to overthrow Sadat’s government was uncovered in early 1981.  Sadat ordered the roundup of Islamic, Coptic and secular intellectuals and activists across the country.  A small jihad cell, led by military officers, was missed and soon carried out his assassination.

Then VP Hosni Mubarak was wounded in the assassination, but succeeded as President.  He had been a powerful VP personally selected by Sadat to manage negotiations for Israeli peace with other Arab nations.  Mubarak’s continued progressive stance on regional issues was a pleasant relief for much of the world, but it probably took his heavy hand in order to stay in power and continue Egypt on the path of a stable, moderate leader in the Arab region.

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak 2009-10-17 (c) Presidenza della Repubblica

Despite continued heavy-handed, autocratic domestic rule, the Mubarak government has been a stable, positive influence internationally since the early ’80s.  However, it appears Mubarak missed an opportunity to lead Egypt to a true democracy.  He was elected in what were generally seen as rigged elections.

People painting Egypt as just another militant, oppressive Islamic regime simply can’t support that view.  Although they can argue many inequities in Egyptian society, Egypt has been more secular and progressive on social issues than many of its neighbors.  Most of the time, Egypt has been a safe place for Westerners to travel even if some places were best avoided.

However, it appears Egypt is ready to move to a full democracy and to accept closer equality between gender and various religious groups.  Day after day, Egyptian citizens maintain relatively safe self-rule despite the room for chaos, so I gain hope they’ll create a democratic government that will be a model for other countries in the region.  I also hope the uprising remains a peaceful model for other nations.

I believe the Obama administration is working with Mubarak behind the scenes to create a democratic transition out of this uprising.  Publicly, President Obama’s hands are tied causing him to veil support for either side.  However, I believe his administration is supporting both sides while bringing them toward this transition.

Historically, this movement is moving at break-neck speed.  I am in awe every day much as I was when the Berlin Wall was brought down.  Luckily, for all the progress Egypt made the last 40 years, they will have a much easier transition than Germany.

Mohammed ElBaradei

Mohammad ElBaradei, Sept. 2010 - AP photo

Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2005 for his work in arms control, has emerged as a possible interim President.  Many believe he would win if elections were held today.  He has Islamic and secular support so he could be the best person to further unify a diverse group in a tumultous region.  People are scrambling for more information about him in an effort to decide what role, if any, he could play.

Any plan to form a new Egyptian constitution and government will likely take years to reach a complete form so there will be much to see over the coming weeks and months.

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Filed under Egypt, International Politics & Economy, Middle East

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