Thursday, 3 February 2011

Don't cry for me Egypt - I'm never going to leave you

Today we are witnessing the unfortunate escalation of the situation in Egypt. Things are changing by the minute but it is an extremely dangerous environment now in Cairo specifically. How the next few days play out will have wide-ranging effect not just on Egypt but on the region more widely. If violence and intimidation are used successfully by Mubarak to extinguish this new form of peaceful opposition it will be exercised accordingly across the region by other regimes, in response to the new wave of unrest that has reached several countries.

Here is my most recent take on what Mubarak is thinking from The Mark, a Canadian online publication.


Mubarak Won't Leave

Step down he may, but don't expect Hosni Mubarak to dismantle the regime he has spent his life building and sees as the ultimate source of Egypt's stability.

Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak declared, “The incidents of the past few days require us – all of us – the people and the leadership to choose between chaos and stability. My top priority is to restore the security and stability of the nation in order to pave the way for a peaceful transition.”
Reports estimated that close to two million people gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to reject the Egyptian president’s pledge not to seek re-election. The crowd responded with a chant of vociferous rejection: “Irhal, irhal,” or, “Leave, leave.” The same scene played out in Alexandria and other cities around the country.
Mubarak had severely failed to satisfy the demands of the people. He had, however, announced his desire for a peaceful transition, borrowing from the terminology put forward by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this week. In some ways, Mubarak gave the protest movement a key concession: that he would not stand for another presidential term in the forthcoming September elections. Yet, at the same time, he not only refused to resign early but also called upon the security apparatus “to shoulder its responsibilities and undertake its duties” in apprehending those fomenting chaos in the streets. It was a stark warning: I will resign, but on my own terms, and I will stabilize the country before I leave.
A sense of disbelief has overtaken many observers, who wonder if Mubarak sees the writing on the wall. How can he not realize that he has to leave? However, from the perspective of Mubarak, resigning immediately was never in the cards. Before ending his speech, he remarked, partly in the third person, “Hosni Mubarak takes pride in the long years he spent serving Egypt and its people. I will die on the soil of Egypt and I will be judged by history for my merits and demerits.”
As the protests started on the so-called of "day of rage" on Jan. 25 and gained momentum last Friday, Mubarak saw the following cascading options in front of him:
1) Disregard the motivations and demands of the protestors, and suppress them using the state security apparatus;
2) Deflect the attention to the cabinet (i.e. prime minister) and policies of the government, and act to change them;
3) Withdraw his presidential candidacy for the September 2011 elections, leaving other successors of the regime to take hold; and
4) Resign immediately and allow the speaker of the parliament to be appointed as president and early elections to be held.
As Mubarak indicated in his speech, he will die on Egyptian soil, and any immediate resignation would jeopardize that pledge . This is a man who has held an autocratic grip on his country for 30 years, surrounding himself with a team of sycophantic advisors. He believes in himself as the indispensible source of stability and security for his country. When former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali snaked out of Tunisia, it was not at his own behest; the country’s military stepped in to force his hand.
Mubarak, as commander-in-chief and a decorated air force figure, will not be so easily set aside. In his view, he has to maintain the stability of the country. When options 1 and 2 did not sufficiently stem the protest movement, he very reluctantly offered not to seek another term. He has not, and will not, offer to democratize the country. If he cannot run – and his son, Gamal, is absent (he has allegedly fled the country) – then he will transfer power, in cosmetic democratic fashion, to another figure in the regime.
While Mubarak has been confident in the military’s general support – or at least neutrality – during this crisis, it is by no means guaranteed. That is why he solidified the government with the appointment of Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander, as prime minister, and Omar Suleiman, another military figure, as his first vice-president.
If, in the end, the military does not turn against him directly, and neither does the international community, specifically the United States, then he will simply absorb the blows. Mubarak has survived assassination attempts (including being shot) as well as insurrection by fundamentalist terrorists. He has faced angry protests before, though not at this scale, and a revolt by the country’s judiciary five years ago, without missing a beat. He has absorbed the blows and moved on.
Today, the scale of the opposition has shocked Mubarak. He had to respond with the extraordinary decision to step down. Yet, it has never been, nor will it be, in his playbook to dismantle the regime that he has spent his life building, and that he sees as the ultimate source of stability in the country, and as his raison d’ĂȘtre.
Now, Mubarak has mobilized mechanisms to solidify the regime, even if he steps down in September, as he has declared he will. It has also been said that regime elements are intentionally contributing to the growing sense of disorder in the country in an attempt to underscore the need for stability. Counter-protests in his favor are being held, and groups of thugs are clashing with the anti-regime demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo, but also in other cities.
Make no mistake about it. Mubarak will seek to cement his legacy and a continuation of his regime, with or without him. If the army stays neutral and the international community stays silent, that is exactly what will happen, with many deaths and injuries along the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment