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    The Egyptian Lesson

    Hosni Mubarak is gone, as president of Egypt. It was an event that should have taken place months, if not years ago. The message of popular discontent was delivered, loudly and clearly, during last year’s parliamentary elections, when vote-rigging and other shenanigans were taken to unprecedented levels.

    Back then, and in the aftermath of the chorus of objections, Mubarak had a chance to offer forward-looking compromises, instead of playing a game of all-or-nothing until the last possible minute.

    A wise person does not wait for the fire to flare up and wreak destruction, when precautionary measures can prevent a disaster. All of the warning signs were there, but the message of the people was not heeded, and Mubarak’s fate was sealed.

    Egypt now faces a future full of wrenching challenges, which are well-known to all: corruption and unemployment, and general conditions of economic underdevelopment, institutional weakness and political oppression. The entire world will be watching to see whether Egypt’s rulers will respect the will of the country’s young people, and its wider public, and oversee a thorough and credible reform process.

    History has shown that when military rulers take over, they rarely go away. But this set of rulers must keep its promises to the Egyptian people, so that things return to normal. If change takes place in a peaceful and fruitful manner, it will bode well for the rest of the region.

    Young people and the rest of the public will take heart that they have the chance at a bright future, while rulers have a golden opportunity to draw the appropriate lessons: they can learn from Egypt, and not wait for the fire to come to them. Instead, they must undertake reform immediately, to meet the aspirations of their populations.

    There is a wide spectrum of demands to be met. People want stability, and they want to be prosperous. But “economic miracles” that take place amid wide-scale corruption and the silencing of any form of dissent have proven to be unsustainable.

    Full-fledged democracy is not a slogan, but a key to stability. People in this region do not require Facebook, or even the internet, to know that people in other parts of the world are not subjected to such life-draining conditions, and they naturally ask why they cannot enjoy the same quality of life.

    The sooner that regimes respond and react to what their people want, the better, otherwise the Egyptian experience will be repeated, time and time again. If not sooner, then later.

    The Daily Star
    12.02.2011

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