Following on the heels of the so called “Jasmine Revolution” in regional neighbor Tunisia, Egyptian youths have taken to the streets to protest the regime of their current president, Hosni Mubarak, since Jan. 25. The 82-year-old strong man has been dictator of Egypt since 1981 and has been “elected” for five 6-year terms, including a recent reelection with a 99 percent favorable vote.
These elections have usually been rigged, with Murabak’s political group being the only one eligible to run in most of the elections. In a country where the opposition has been practically banned, imprisoned, or killed, political dissension can be very costly to anyone. That is why the current youth-led peaceful protests in Egypt are so surprising. The bravery of the Egyptian people is to be commended and respected.
Egypt’s government is an effective military dictatorship in civilian clothes disguised as a kind of democracy. In most cases, the people in military dictatorships are either docile in compliance or patiently resentful. In Egypt it was the latter, and it has lead to an ongoing protest and standoff between the government and the people.
Despite seeing youthful popular change occurring in Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, President Mubarak is still clinging on to power whichever way he can. His government has even shutdown the internet and declared foreign journalists as spies. Through broadcasts addressed the Egyptian people, he has claimed he would step down at the end of his term in November. However, the protesters want him gone as quickly as yesterday and are not patiently resentful any longer. Anger has reached a boiling point and does not seem to be cooling down anytime soon.
With all this internal strife, the international community of nations has not stood by idly. Led by the United States, it is attempting to compel President Mubarak to either hold elections or to step down and allow his deputy Omar Suleiman to become some interim leader until elections can be held freely and fairly.
However, Mubarak is defiantly insisting on finishing his term and does not want to give up power. All this is coming as the U.S. currently reviews the $1.3 billion military and economic aid it lends to the Egyptian government. Israel, its eastern neighbor, is also watching nervously as the outcome could affect it immediately. Egypt was the first country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish nation, a deal which caused the assassination of President Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
The whole world is currently holding its collective breath to see what happens for various reasons. One of them is that Egypt is a huge importer of wheat, and this would have an impact on the price of the crop. Another reason is that the price of oil is tied to fears of what kind of government could emerge, considering President Mubarak’s potential departure from power.
These options are seen as a lose-lose situation, as there are no “good guys” and the Muslim Brotherhood has been largely distant from the protests. These protesters are committed to establishing a democracy in Egypt and in the end, regardless of who is in charge, the will of the Egyptian people will be heard. This will be the ultimate evolution of democracy from within and not a violent revolution, which usually breeds more violence and destroys countries.