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.
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Average Egyptians are understandably fearful of chaos and a vacuum of power, especially after they have been conditioned by patriarchal rule for decades. The opposition leadership must taken this into account and assure average Egyptians that there is an orderly alternative to Mubarak’s vision of transition. It is incumbent on the opposition leadership to do so if it wants to prove itself worthy of the trust and loyalty of the Egyptian people.Skip to next paragraph
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The protesters have proven their courage, serving as an inspiration not only to Egyptians, but people around the world. Now they must prove their leadership and stamina.
Need a leader for Stage 2
The spontaneity and universality of these protests have been extraordinarily powerful in conveying strong desire for change. In many ways it is good that there has been no one leader, no organized political force up to this point. It demonstrates that this change is the collective will of the Egyptian people. But Stage 1 is over. Now it’s onto Stage 2.
The protesters got away with no leadership these last two weeks, but this week and next, a leader must step up and channel the collective energy that has shaken the Egyptian regime into a clear way forward for a secular, just, representative, and responsive government. A leader must think beyond the immediate goal of deposing Mubarak.
Egypt should learn the lessons of Iran – Iran in 1979 and Iran in 2009. In 1979, a universal coalition of Iranian forces came together to overthrow the shah, much in the same way much of Egypt has come together to get rid of the current regime. Secular and Islamic, communists and merchants, farmers and city dwellers all came together to protest against the monarchy. They all had their own vision for what Iran could become, but it was Ayatollah Khomenei who was the leader, who gave the revolution a vision and a path forward. That is why Iran became an Islamic Republic and not a secular republic.
Will Egypt end up like Iran?
Will the same happen in Egypt? Will Islamist forces emerge as the one group that paves the path of the Egyptian revolution beyond the immediate goal of removing Mubarak’s regime? Will Mohamad ElBaradei shake off the patina of international diplomat, removed from the concerns of the masses, and give strategic vision and a way forward? Or will Wael Ghonim, the 30-something Google executive behind the galvanizing “We Are All Khaled Saed” Facebook page, channel the collective energies of his generation?
Will the notoriously splintered secular opposition groups finally organize themselves to present a way forward for Egypt?
Or will Egypt go the way of Iran 2009, full of sound and fury, but ultimately failing to effect meaningful change to the system demonstrators protested? Will the regime be able to manipulate the diffuseness of the protesters to remain in power? Will they have to settle for “Mubarak lite” under newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman?
Egyptians must answer these questions now, before the Mubarak regime falls, not after. The plan for a transition period and a vision for what is to come are just as important as getting the regime out of power.
[Editor's note: This commentary has been updated to reflect recent news developments.]