Posted by: Jeff | February 8, 2011

Reality in Egypt

One of my favorite Political Science authors, Larry Diamond, has an editorial up at the Huffington Post detailing the extensive network of Mubarak’s regime and its thought process as the crisis continues.  His takeaway is pretty sobering:

Even if Hosni Mubarak were to leave the scene tomorrow, it is increasingly apparent that his successors, beginning with his new Vice President, Omar Suleiman, are determined to preserve the system of monopoly power and privilege at all costs. Driving Mubarak from power would thus, in itself, achieve rather little — unless he were replaced by a neutral caretaker government.At the moment, power seems to be shifting rapidly back to the regime. After 15 days of street protests, the opposition is divided — between the street and the negotiating table, and apparently even on the street. Doubt, division, demoralization and fatigue are creeping in. Economic anxiety and exigency compel a return of normal economic life. The position of the brave young demonstrators in Tahrir Square grows more precarious by the hour. What can they do?

The situation remains fluid. That is the good news. The regime’s legitimacy, never strong, is further eroded. Egypt’s brave and inventive youth, who have shown repeated and extraordinary ability to mobilize quickly and peacefully, will not go away, and neither will their skills. But mobilization is not enough. Democratic movements do not triumph without strategy and organization.

The imperative now for Egypt’s democratic forces is to buy time and political space to negotiate for systemic changes (including some constitutional reforms) that would lead to a free and fair presidential election later this year. With that, other reforms could follow. While the demonstrators have a reasonable list of demands for systemic change, it seems unlikely that they can secure them quickly, before their strategic position on the street weakens further.

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