On Feb. 10, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned from his nearly 30 years in office, a change precipitated by widespread protests throughout Egypt, which began Jan. 25.
“President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from his post as president of the republic and has empowered the supreme council of the armed forces to manage the affairs of the government,” said Omar Suleiman, Egyptian vice president, in a television broadcast last Friday.
The announcement was met with massive celebrations across Egypt as citizens took to the streets in high spirits for the first time in several weeks. Popular opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, called the moment the “greatest day of my life. The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he told the reporters.
On Feb. 13, the military junta established, after the resignation of Mubarak was announced, the suspension of Egypt’s constitution, vowing to rewrite it in 10 days. According to government reports, the constitution will be put to referendum within two months of its writing in order to appease the protesters’ demands of constitutional overhaul. In the past, the constitution had made it nearly impossible for political parties to oppose the National Democratic Party (NDP), of which Mubarak is a member. The far-reaching changes made by the council on Sunday eviscerated this corrupt political system that permitted Mubarak’s elongated presidency. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, “The dissolved legislative body was seen as illegitimate following elections last year that were marred by widespread allegations of fraud, and gave Mubarak’s National Democratic Party an overwhelming majority.” Changes proposed by the opposition groups “have called for democratic reforms that would enable more candidates to run for the presidency, impose term limits on the post, and enable more political parties to be formed,” in order to support more fair, democratic elections.
The military also announced the dissolution of the current parliament and “a six-month timetable for holding national elections,” in which the citizens who protested so vehemently will be allowed to participate.
The question that remains is whether such elections will result in actual democracy for the people of Egypt. Said Shadek, professor of political sociology at the American University of Cairo, told reporters that there are “encouraging signs that demands of a secular democratic system advocated by pro-democracy protesters could finally be realized.” Though the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement, is a key opposition party, it is unlikely that they will support a presidential candidate in the approaching election.
Internationally, most countries have either voiced support of the movement of the people. Nearby Mideast countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran condemned the government while supporting the rights of the people to protest. Two supranational organizations, the European Union and the United Nations, voiced their support for the Egyptian people and their “legitimate concerns.”
With so much international attention, it is predicted by many that the elections held in the coming months will be corruption-free. With such a popular uprising of the people, it also seems likely that the elections will result in tumultuous change. However, recent reports havenoted that the Egyptian people have been united by a cause, but not by a leader. Though leaders like ElBaradei have emerged, it is unlikely that the people will continue to be as united as they have been the past few weeks. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed, a Cairo University political science professor, told reporter, “There are already some divisions among the demonstrators. Some are saying, ‘Let us give the promise of reform a chance and trust the armed forces, who say they will guarantee reform.’ Others are saying, ‘No trust is left.'”
In a speech regarding the Egyptian revolution, President Barack Obama told the press, “The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.” He continued, saying that, “By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition, it is a beginning.” All that remains to be seen is how Egypt’s newest beginning will end.