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Mubarak's legacy – and his downfall: A stale stability

Unlike his iconic predecessors Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser, who left clear imprints on Egypt, Hosni Mubarak will probably be remembered more for unfulfilled expectations.

By Correspondent, and Dan MurphyStaff writer / February 12, 2011

Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as president of Egypt, but after 30 years of rule, what has he accomplished?

ZUMA Press/Newscom/File

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Cairo

After nearly 30 years at the helm of the economic and cultural center of the Arab world, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak relinquished his post in the face of an unprecedented and unrelenting pro-democracy movement.

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Mr. Mubarak's departure yesterday changes not only the face of Egypt but also that of the Middle East, where in 1981 he took command of one of the region's most powerful countries.

He was the longest-ruling Egyptian leader since Mohamed Ali Pasha, the 19th-century Ottoman viceroy who is considered the founder of modern Egypt.

Unlike his iconic predecessors and fellow generals Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser, who left clear imprints on the nation and died in office, Mubarak will probably be remembered more for unfulfilled expectations and wasted opportunity.

"With Nasser and Sadat, people remember what they did do. Concerning Mubarak, I think the people will remember ... what he might have done, but did not," said analyst Amr al-Shobaki of Cairo's Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, speaking before Mubarak's fall.

After the thundering Arab nationalist rhetoric of Nasser, and the historic peace made with Israel by Sadat, Mubarak turned Egypt politically inward. He oversaw a process of liberal economic reform that benefited a small business and military elite at the cost of widening social gaps, even as the industrial base of Egypt eroded under his watch from its glory years in the 1950s.

Rampant inflation in recent years made it harder for millions to feed their families, and the promises by Mubarak and his investment banker son, Gamal, that economic liberalization would eventually lift Egyptians out of poverty were increasingly derided as a cruel joke by a citizenry watching their country's international standing and their own economic prospects decline.

International sponsors like the US and the World Bank may have been pleased with Mubarak's course, but his people were not.

Though many factors contributed to the social revolution that swept Mubarak away – the spread of communications technologies like the Internet, a youth bulge that had never known any ruler but him, the stunning evidence from Tunisia that a popular uprising could succeed – his economic failures were a crucial component.

Mubarak's rise

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