Is the Hosni Mubarak era ending in Egypt?

Is the Hosni Mubarak era ending in Egypt?

On March 6 the 81-year-old Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak traveled to Heidelberg, Germany for gall bladder surgery. The blogosphere fluttered with rumors of his death. However, in a report dated March 15, Reuters states that Mubarak is on the mend. The news agency quoted a hospital spokewoman as saying that “[t]he president is alive and well and recovering. . . . The improvement in his health has continued.” 

This report may be true. Mubarak’s post-op heatth may continue to improve. Mubarak may indeed return to Egypt after this operation. But after 30 years as president, the curtain is bound to come down on this act in the forseeable future.

Since Egypt has the forms, but not the reality, of democracy, if Mubarak were to run for a sixth six-year term as president in 2011, he would lkely be reelected.  However, he may not run–he hasn’t announced. Either way, it is well-known that Mubarak is trying to install his son Gamal as the next Egyptian president. This is not especially popular, and on March 13 a gaggle of opposition parties demanded constitutional changes to make presidential elections less of a joke. No one is holding his breath on that one.

Indeed, the New York Times reported on March 14 that Egyptian political arrests have begun a bit earlier than is usual before the May parliamentiary elections: On March 13 about 300 Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested.

Egypt is in a dangerous position. Because the regime has made little or no effort to create the institutions and habits of liberal democracy, if a relatively free election were actually to occur, an illiberal party like the Muslim Brotherhood has a good chance of being the winner. A similar scenario played out in Gaza when the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, won parliamentary elections, then militarily seized control of the Strip.

Just as life for Gazans worsened after Hamas grabbed Gaza, Muslim Brotherhood rule would further immiserate Egypt. Moreover, the peace with Israel would be threatened,

Egypt needs a free press, the rule of law, a liberalized economy, and the other social and political indicia of liberty. After a period of genuine liberalization, a free election would be the culmination of the process.

But this isn’t going to happen, at least in the short term. The Mubarak regime isn’t interested in liberal democracy, and the Obama adminsitration isn’t interested in supporting Egyptian liberal democrats. Thus, the likely short term Egyptian choices are continued authoritarianism or an Islamist upheaval.                    Source: