by Florian Flade
There is a joke circulating on the Internet about the ongoing protests in Egypt against the Mubarak-Regime, now reaching the 11th day. It is a fictional phone conversation between the US President and Egypt´s leader.
Obama: “Hosni, you should send a farewell note to the Egyptians and say Goodbye.”
Mubarak: “Why? Where are they going?”
There couldn´t be more truth in a statement. Hosni Mubarak is just not giving up, he still remains in power and even justifies his decision of not stepping down by warning the world of an Egypt without him in power. “If I resign now…there will be chaos”, the Egyptian President told ABC´s Christiane Amanpour in a rare face-to-face interview in his palace.
Nevertheless, the 30-year ruling leader of Egypt did not totally ignore the millions out on the streets calling for the overthrow of his regime. Mubarak did react but he did not meet the demands of his people. “We want an overthrow of the system!” – the mob screams – “Mubarak no more!” As a first reaction to the violent protests, the President did announce he would form a new government and appoint new ministers.
One of these new faces of the same old regime is Ahmed Shafiq, the newly appointed Prime Minister. Shafiq is the former Minister of Aviation, was a pilot in the Egyptian Airforce and is regarded by many as a war hero. In the October War of 1973, Shafiq served as a figher jet pilot under then Chief of Airforce, Hosni Mubarak. He shot down two Israeli airplanes and was later awarded though Egypt lost the war against the Israelis. Between 1996 and 2002 he was the commander of the air force.
Mubarak also appointed a new Vice-President, the former head of intelligence Omar Sulaiman – he is now Egypt´s first Vice-President since 30 years. Sulaiman is a military man, too – educated in Egypt and Moscow – but is also a good friend of the United States and was Washington´s man in Egypt during the times of the secret rendition program of the CIA. As part of America´s War on Terror, al-Qaida suspects were captured and flown to secret prisons were they were questioned and tortured by US agents and their local allies.
The two new faces of the Egyptian leadership are Mubarak´s attempt to calm down the protesting masses in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. Those demanding a real regime-change were not welcoming Mubarak´s announcement of re-structuring a new government. “We want the regime to change, not its colour!” – Egyptians answered.
All the signs are now indicating Mubarak is preparing for a regime-change, meaning he will leave power at a time which seems appropriate to him. In 1969 the Soviet-educated soldier Mubarak became head of the Egyptian Airforce and served as a general during the war with Israel in 1973. Two years later, Mubarak was named Vice-President to Anwar al-Sadat. When Sadat was assassinated in 1981, Vice-President Mubarak became President Mubarak – “father of all Egyptians”.
The Vice-President in Egypt is traditionally seen as the new leader taking over from the ruling person. Could that mean Mubarak will leave office and 74 year-old Sulaiman is then named President? This would in no way satisfy those millions of Egyptians protesting against the old system. What they want is a democratic vote on their new leader.
A great obstacle of the opposition-movement is the question of who would lead a new government. Their is no real leader figure among those opposing Hosni Mubarak. Muhammad ElBaradei is a popular politician but insiders think he would rather like to remain a symbol than a real acting leader.
Without any doubt, the Mubarak regime will collapse in the weeks to come. Eleven days of protest, violence, worldwide media attention and steady pressure on the President to act according to the will of the people will eventually lead to a new Egyptian leadership. It is legitimate to say, Egypt has several options of shaping its future. Basically three options are on the table for the Post-Mubarak Egypt.
“The Turkish Way”
Egypt could follow the Turkish Example and turn into a Muslim Democracy with a powerful military defending the state values and constitution against Islamist forces. This would mean the torture in the prisons continues, the military´s position would be strengthened and Generals would occupy powerful political offices.
The peace-treaty with Israel would remain in place when a military-dominated government takes over. Foreign policy would be kept in the hands of the military which would take all necessary steps to avoid religious forces to influence the relationships with other states, especially the European Union and the United States.
“The Iranian Way”
An Egyptian Islamic Revolution of an Iranian-model is a very unlikely outcome of the current uprising. Many factors in today´s Egypt do not match the situation of Iran back in 1979. Just take a look at the opposition elements: Egypt´s opposition does not have a Khomeini-figure living in exile, prepared and ready to take over the country.
Egypt´s youth has witnessed the results and the bloody reality of a theocratic regime on Al-Jazeera during protests in Iran after the 2009 elections. There is no majority in Egypt who would agree to be ruled by religious authorities. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 is no role model for Egypt in 2011.
Even the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt´s largest opposition party, have distanced themselves from the Iranian Mullah-regime. In Western Media, the Muslim Brothers are commonly referred to as Islamists and fundamentalists – the reality is somewhat different. Decades of political and social events have created a different Muslim Brotherhood then the one promoted by Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb.
“The Burmese Way”
No other native force accept for the military is able to shape Egypt´s future right now. When Mubarak´s policemen were clashing with protesters, the people called for the army to intervene. Soldiers and their leadership harbor the sympathies of many Egyptians. If the mob is able to pull the military onto its side – then the security forces loyal to Mubarak have no other option than to retreat.
Up to this point the Egyptian military leadership has not clearly announced which side they are supporting. They wouldn´t fire at protesters, soldiers said, but on the other hand they are securing the Presidential palace. A Coup is highly unlikely because Mubarak himself is a military man and therefore the military in-fact is in power right now. Would could though, is Generals taking over all political power. Egypt´s highest ranking military leaders could install a council of Generals ruling in a way similar to how Myanmar (former Burma) is governed.
This solution is probably not welcomed by the majority of Egyptians – but the military could still try to convince the opposition forces that they are part of the new government and in fact able to make political decisions. If the Generals are able to assure more freedom, a brighter economic future and an end to police brutality, torture and the oppression of critics, a certain percentage of Egyptians would possibly support a military dictatorship consisting of not one but many leaders and decision-makers.