by Sabir Ibrahim
Over the course of 18 days, a popular uprising in Egypt swept one of the world’s longest-ruling dictators from power. Ripple effects from the downfall of Hosni Mubarak are being felt in Libya, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, and Bahrain as Arabs, emboldened by the Egyptians (who were themselves emboldened by the Tunisians), are breaking long-standing barriers of fear that have thus far kept popular resistance to autocratic rule from taking root. Though it remains to be seen what long-term effect the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings will have on the region, the events of the past month undoubtedly signal the dawn of a new era in the politics of the Arab World.
Discussions of a post-Mubarak future in the Middle East have centered on two key questions: what now and who’s next. Egypt’s fate now lies in the hands of its military, which took control of the country after forcing Mubarak to step down on February 11. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, has dissolved parliament and suspended Egypt’s constitution. Though the army has vowed to stand aside and hold elections within six months, any optimism that the fall of Mubarak’s government will immediately usher in a new era of democracy should be tempered by unease over the absence of a constitution and the concentration of absolute power in the hands of a few army generals. Militaries in poor countries that become involved in politics don’t have a great record of living up to their promises. Continue reading