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Global Viewpoint

A bold plan to resolve crisis in Egypt

Egyptian Ahmed Zewail won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1999. Here he gives four steps to make the transition to democracy in Egypt.

By Ahmed Zewail / February 2, 2011



Cairo

The present revolt that has erupted across Egypt is in many ways historic and should take the nation into a hopeful future. Unexpected, even by the Egyptians themselves, is that this intifada is led by youth, the so-called Facebook children, with no religious or ideological agenda other than a better future for Egypt and the Egyptian people.

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In this difficult time, the military has earned the expected respect of the masses by acting professionally to maintain safety and stability as guardian of the Egyptian people. By reclaiming the future while maintaining stability, these two forces of the youth and the military offer great hope for an orderly transition to a new Egypt.

Clearly, it is time for fundamental change in Egypt, not just cosmetic alterations. There are several reasons for the current uprising which must be borne in mind in order to figure out where to go from here. The people of Egypt have finally lost patience with power games among those surrounding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, over succession to his son, Gamal Mubarak; the lack of transparency among those who held power; and the phony elections that led in the last parliament to a majority by Mr. Mubarak’s party, effectively with no opposition.

A sad state and time for change

Though Egypt has seen some economic progress in recent years, the masses of the poor have been left behind, and the middle class has actually gone backward. Only the small elite at the top has benefited lavishly by exploiting the marriage between their political influence and the capital. The corruption resulting from this marriage and the constant demands for bribes by officials have further exhausted the tolerance of the people.

Finally, the education system, which is central to every Egyptian household’s hopes of progress, has deteriorated into a sad state that is far below Egypt’s standing in the world. The system failed in a big way, especially when I compare it with the one I personally experienced as a student in Alexandria in the 1960s. Moreover, scientific research in Egypt, which was ahead of South Korea, has now fallen to the tail of global rankings over the 30 years of the regime’s governance.

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