Friday’s protests in Cairo proved to be the final scenes for Hosni Mubarak’s presidency, and his resignation saw the end to of 30 year autocratic rule of Egypt.
The reaction amongst the media, public and politicians was a mixture between joy of apprehension. On the ground, it was a moment of elation for the Egyptian public. Activist and Noble prize winner Mohammed El-Baradi described it as ‘The greatest day of his life’, while Ayman Nour, the only person who ran against Mubarak in the previous rigged election, stated that “This nation has been born again, these people have been born again, and this is a new Egypt,”.
Mubarak’s authoritarian rule was a mixture of fear and external support. He had governed with an iron fist for thirty years, following the assassination of predecessor Anwar Sadat. His presidency established an ‘us v them’ psyche towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which also saw him receive mass amounts of aid from the US, and them turning a blind eye towards the abhorrent human rights abuses during his leadership. He claims his aims were to bring stability to Egypt, though his idea of stability was only accessible through police brutality, corruption and rigged-elections.
Upon his announcement, many went on the attack at Mubarak. MSNBC stated that:
He resisted calls for reform even as public bitterness grew over corruption, deteriorating infrastructure and rampant poverty in a country where 40 percent live below or near the poverty line.
Whilst the Guardian were even more searing in their criticism;
The police state drove many into the hands of extremists. And this, it was often said, was Mubarak’s deliberate policy. The Muslim Brotherhood was useful to him because the threat it represented, which he exaggerated, silenced much western criticism of his human rights abuses. In truth, he was always more afraid of the pro-democracy movement than the Islamists – a fear that proved to be well-founded.
Apprehension following the resignation was two-fold; some feared that the Army would continue to rule with brutality, while others feared that free and fair elections would see Egypt descend into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Independent felt that toppling Mubarak may have only been the first step for Egyptian democracy.
There was a note of caution in the background, however, over how far the military under Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s veteran defence minister, are ready to permit a democracy.
"This is just the end of the beginning," said Jon Alterman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "Egypt isn’t moving toward democracy, it’s moved into martial law and where it goes is now subject to debate."
While the army were remained tight-lipped, the Armed Forces Supreme Council reaffirmed that they were committed to moving to country towards a democratic model, stating that they were “to sponsor the legitimate demands of the people and endeavour for their implementation within a defined timetable”.
Now obviously, the fear with simply axing the head of a regime is that the mechanics still remain untouched. What it will depend on is the pressure that The US puts on the Egyptian army following the resignation, considering the aid that the regime is so dependent on. In a statement to the press, President Obama claimed that;
The Egyptian people have made it clear that there is no going back to the way things were: Egypt has changed, and its future is in the hands of the people.
Other world leaders weren’t as positive as Obama. In Israel, where Mubarak had become a key ally for the country, they hoped the resignation “would bring no change to its peaceful relations with Cairo”. The worry, for some, is that a more extreme party would gain power, in a similar vein to the Iranian revolution of 1979. The Telegraph went one further, citing fears that this revolution could lead to calamitous scenes in the wider region.
“The escalating confrontation has raised fear of uncontrolled violence in the most populous Arab nation, a key US ally in an oil-rich region where the chance of chaos spreading to other long stable but repressive states troubles the West.”
Anyone that has studied the region would surely agree that the fears are completely unfounded. This revolution is totally different to the Iranian one of 1979. The Iranian revolution was a pro-Islamic, pro-theocratic, pro-Khomeini, anti-shah and anti-western movement. The Egyptian revolution is pro-democracy. The only thing they have in common is that they are both in the Middle East. If anything, it replicates the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czech-Republic. I don’t see why they’ll free themselves from one dictator and plunge themselves into another. I cannot see the Muslim Brotherhood (who are only a fringe party anyway) getting into power. It just expresses baseless fears by countries that have no understanding of the area and of its people. Hence why they were so happy to keep a tyrant in charge for so long.
Wherever Egypt goes now remains to be seen. One hopes that the revolution doesn’t get hijacked by a group or political party, and that power does indeed remain with the people.