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Opinion

Mubarak may soon step down, but Egypt's protesters need a leader and plan -- quickly

Demanding that Mubarak leave isn't enough. Egyptian protesters must now find a leader and solidify a plan for transition. A vision for what is to come is just as important as getting the regime out of power.

By Lydia Khalil / February 10, 2011



Egypt is the cusp of transformational change. Protesters have finally succeeded in making their voices heard after ripping off the rag that was held to their face, suffocating and stifling their expression. They have raised their voices despite the tear gas that has made them hoarse, despite the Internet and mobile network blackout that cut off their communications, and despite being conditioned into complacency and stagnation for over 30 years.

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The Mubarak regime yet to take its fingers out of its ears and answer the people’s call for change. President Hosni Mubarak refused to stand down yet again in his latest address to the people. Initial cosmetic changes (Mr. Mubarak dismissed his cabinet and promised not to run for re-election) only stoked, not slaked, Egyptians’ desire for fundamental change.

Democracy and political reform are finally within reach of the Egyptian people, but there are many developments that need to take place before Egypt is finally rid of his regime and onto a viable path to democracy. Now more than ever, Egyptians must start thinking ahead.

They need to think about what type of government they want when Mubarak finally falls and who will lead it. It is not enough just to be rid of the president or his cabinet. There must be a plan in place and someone to lead the transition to political reform if opposition protesters are to complete the work they began with the protests calling for Mubarak’s ouster.

Five ways Egypt's Constitution stifles opposition

One thing is abundantly clear. A transition under Mubarak is not acceptable. He must leave office for there to be any meaningful transition. His actions to agitate and attack the peaceful protesters – sending out paid armed thugs and plain-clothes officers pretending to be his supporters – is criminal. His vision of “transition” is a government made up of his cronies, the same people who were in power.

Opposition needs transition plan

But the opposition must put forward a clear alternative plan for transition. They must lobby the international community to help them implement that plan. Who will arise out of the constellation of protesters to offer clear leadership for this revolution?

One protester who exemplifies the attitude of most Egyptians said, “We need a just government. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Islamic or secular. The issue is justice.” A just and representative government is key, yes, but it certainly does matter whether any new Egyptian government is Islamic or secular. It matters whether women’s rights, minority rights, and religious rights are respected. It matters whether capable technocrats are put in place. It matters whether the rule of law is enforced by a fair constitution.

This attitude is not just among the average protester on the street. A long time Egyptian blogger and advocate for political reform, Mohamed Gamal, states, “We don’t care about a leader.” And when asked about what the protesters would do if they succeeded, “We haven’t thought that far ahead.”

This attitude is worrisome. The Egyptian protesters have come too far to let their revolution slip away from them; and it will slip away from them if they don’t plan for what can happen after they succeed.

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