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The Future of Egypt: President Hosni Mubarak Steps Down

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by Liz Veit, L.L.M. Candidate George Washington University, J.D. Hamlin School of Law 

The citizens of Egypt have spoken, “Leave, Leave, Leave!”  Their message is heard around the international community. Their call is for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. Their hope is for a new Egypt where freedom and democracy replace the current regime dominated by repression and control. Their frustrations are the result of military dominance, corruption, human rights violations, and poverty.  Their call for freedom was answered today when President Hosni Mubarak announced that he will step down after 30 years as the country’s President. Mubarak gave control of the country to the high command of the armed forces.  

Anger and frustration renewed today when protestors’ hopes for President Mubarak’s immediate resignation were shattered by his announcement on Thursday, February 10 that he would not step down until elections in September.  His plan was to transfer significant power to Vice President Omar Suleiman who would act as de facto President until elections. Control is now in the hands of the high command of the armed forces. Some say that the “transfer” appears to be more of a military coup. 

President Mubarak was hesitant to take immediate steps to relinquish control stating that stepping down will result in control by the banned opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. His hesitancy gave way to the persistence of the movement and the undeterred calls for a transition to freedom and democracy. 

Prior to his resignation Egypt’s Military Council promised to lift the 30-year state of emergency law once the “current situation ended.” The conditional promise was ironic considering that ending the three-week movement would leave President Mubarak in power until September and conditions in the country would remain largely the same. If protestors returned to “normal life” as requested and the Military Council was true to its promise, the current state of emergency military law might end but renewed protests may have resulted in a newly declared state of emergency military law. The scenario was plausible while President Mubarak remained in power. Thus a conditional promise to end the current state of military law once protestors “go home” leaving President Mubarak in power was no concession at all. Protestors were well aware of this irony as they gathered again today in cities across Egypt refusing to take “no” for an answer. This time, they succeeded.

In the U.S., the general consensus of politicians on the left and right side of the political spectrum is support for a transition to democracy with President Obama calling on President Mubarak to listen to the Egyptian people and consider their will in moving forward.   Following a meeting with President Obama, Senator John McCain stated that the time is right to arrange for a transition with the necessary pro-democracy elements in place that will lead to free, open and fair elections. 

A small number of politicians opposed the change invoking the ever present national security concern that Egypt will become a terrorist state. The concern is relevant but with a little education and research it becomes obvious that Egypt is quite capable of becoming a vibrant democracy free of terrorist control. The country plays a crucial role in the Middle East as one of the first countries to maintain a friendly and open policy towards the Western world. In 1979 the country entered into a peace agreement with Israel after a series of wars and has since attempted to stifle religious extremism within the country.

Opponents may rest assure that the interests of the U.S. are well served by a transition to democracy in our ally in the Middle East. After all, promoting democracy on a global scale is supposed to be a foreign policy goal in the United States. Isn’t it? For some, change – even change that results in democracy, free press and the free flow of ideas – principles we are quite familiar with here in the U.S., is scary. It seems clear that maintaining the current status quo was not the way to achieve peace in Egypt.

Now that President Mubarak has officially stepped down, the future of this country is unknown. Though conditions for Egypt’s citizens will remain uncertain for some time, there are a few things we do know. We know there is hope for the future and the possibility of a better life. We know the state of emergency law that existed for the past thirty years ended. We know a regime that exerted control over the population and the media for thirty years is no longer in control. Demonstrators called for a society where the government is held accountable for its actions, a society free of political oppression and control where citizens may communicate ideas freely. The movement can be summed up in one word – freedom. While the transition may not be easy, we now know that the will and persistence of the people makes anything possible. Freedom is now more than a mere possibility. It is the future for Egypt.

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