The Nile revolution may have brought down one of the Arab world’s longest serving dictators, it has at the same time caused many regimes in the neighbourhood to look at Friday’s developments with worry.
Israel may fear for the future of its peace agreement with Egypt given that there will be immense public pressure on any new government not to remain a silent spectator to happenings in the region. Apart from Yemen and Sudan, the country with perhaps the most at stake would be Saudi Arabia which, as a trusted US ally and a brutal and repressive regime, is uncomfortable with any form of people power.
The King in Riyadh has done business for years with Mubarak. The change may lessen Saudi influence in North Africa and deprive the Kingdom of an important ally in the Arab world. Worse, it may give ideas to the people back home that repressive regimes can be replaced if there is a will of the people.
Without doubt, the events in both Tunisia and Egypt - the world’s most populous Arab state, will give hope to Arabs in other countries to fight for their rights and demand a change in the state of affairs.
Sensing this, when the demonstrations started in Egypt, the Jordanian monarch moved quickly to sack his Prime Minister. Other dictators simply looked the other way and prayed nothing would happen. Now they will worry about what the future holds.
Already there is a big question mark on what will happen next in Egypt. Will the government remain in the hands of the armed forces, whose passive role speaks volumes of their game plan, or will newly minted leaders like el Baradei, who seem to have appeared on the scene as if on cue, be handed the reigns of power. Will there will be free and fair elections, given that this would allow extremists a share in the government, or will there emerge a government of national consensus. Mubarak’s Friday step down has prevented a possible blood bath. His decision not to leave the country indicates that he is very much a player in the game, even if by proxy. One can only hope that better sense prevails and the Egyptian government in transition makes it to the polls and that the people of Egypt - who fought for democracy in the past 18 days, have the patience to bear the pains of that form of government once it finally arrives in their country, warts and all.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2011.
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