Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt: Will it be five years of chaos? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

This is the power vacuum, in which all forces, whether good or bad, vie to find a place for themselves. Following the complete dominance of former president Mubarak’s regime, a state of almost complete vacuum has emerged, with the exception of the military council which is struggling to administer the country with great difficulty. A similar vacuum led to a long civil war in Lebanon, which was then filled by the Syrians, the Iranians and others, following the aftermath of the war, along with militias, political parties and their leaders. Incidentally, Somalia and Afghanistan provide the worst examples of political vacuums.

After President Hosni Mubarak was ousted on the 11th of February, there is not one individual emerging from the ranks in the manner of Gandhi after the British were expelled from India. There are no leaders to return from exile, like [Habib] Bourguiba who led Tunisia after the uprising against the French, or Khomeini after the fall of Iran’s shah. There is no leader being held in an Egyptian prison, in the mould of Nelson Mandela, who could be set free to lead the country. Similarly, there is not even a military leader like Jamal Abdul Nasser. This revolution only has virtual heroes from “Facebook” and “Twitter”. At the same time, there is no alternate model of political governance, considering that the overthrow of Mubarak was a revolution against his regime.

As for the military, they lived in the shadows of Mubarak’s rule for three decades, and thus have not had the opportunity to develop any leadership skills. Their activities were limited to reacting to what was happening in the street, and now they are playing the role of traffic policemen trying to organise competing forces.

Some political experts think that Egypt will exist in a state of vacuum for five years. Others are more pessimistic and say it will continue for ten years, whilst the most optimistic still estimate three years. The Egyptians must realize that they are on the brink of an abyss and that they are the only ones capable of changing their destiny.

The political map becomes further complicated month after month; debates increase and conflicts persist. Everyone must agree on the one thing that can save them from falling into the abyss; the formula of governance. This is the easiest of the difficult decisions, and it lies in going to the ballot box, choosing representatives, electing a president and allowing constitutional institutions to settle disputes. This is the only route to salvation from the political vacuum, inside which conflict is intensifying.

What about the role of military leaders? Recent indications point to the fact that they do not want to rule the country, but they fear chaos, collapse and foreign interference. This is the heart of the military’s duties, especially in light of the current vacuum in Egypt, now a pivotal location of the world’s attention. The existing military leadership lacks political creativity and administrative talent, but perhaps this is also an advantage. The military leaders must preserve order, protect society and get everyone to the polling station, after which they should return to their barracks. All the current problems, including the latest “Battle of Maspero”, can only be solved within the framework of an open political system. They must be settled by constitutional institutions, and not by bullets or accusations of treason.