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Editor's Blog

Mideast unrest: Revolution is the easy part

Competing groups often unite in a big national effort -- a revolution or war, for example. But after the dust settles comes the hard part: Building a political mechanism to resolve differences

By Editor / February 17, 2011

A stone mural with an image depicting former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak still stands on the outskirts of Cairo. Massive protests forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last week.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

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In every society, no matter where it is on the scale of democratic development, competing factions will put aside their differences when taking on a big national cause -- a war, for instance, or a revolution.

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During normal times, however, these groups revert to competing among themselves. Healthy societies know that not everybody is going to be on the same page all of the time.

That's why building a way to reconcile differences is the key to sustainable democracy.

In Cairo, fissures are appearing among the opposition groups whose protests brought an end to the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Most Middle East analysts had expected these to develop, given the significantly different world views held by, among others, Islamic traditionalists, Egyptian business people, secular youth, and the military.

After years of one-man rule, Egypt and other nations in the Middle East need political mechanisms to manage internal differences, allowing majority rule but protecting minority rights.

If, as some Egyptians are worrying, the military is trying to tilt the balance toward one faction or another, it will be both missing an historic opportunity and making a tragic mistake that could plant the seeds of another rebellion.

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