Political Upheaval in Egypt: The Outcomes
The direction of anti-government protests in Egypt, the calculus of the President Hosni Mubarak’s regime and the reaction of Egypt’s neighbors, backers and rivals all hang in the balance. No sure schematic shows the way forward, and it is clear neither the regime, nor the Army, nor the protesters themselves, possess a roadmap back to stability. But drawing on historical precedent, Egypt’s own unique circumstances and what is known generally about the dynamics of popular uprisings, four outcomes, some likely, some less so, can be surmised. The most likely has Mubarak handing power to a transitional figure who attempts to calm dissent and pledges to reform Egypt, all while protecting the old regime and retaining the main elements of Egyptian foreign policy. This route, however, has a high risk of rejection by an impassioned protest movement. Given the uncertainties therein, Mubarak could still opt to crack down, with brutal consequences in terms of human lives and Egypt’s reputation. A third, less violent option (at least initially) would involve a complete capitulation to a secular opposition figure like Mohamed ElBaradei, a bitter pill for Egyptian elites but perhaps one that allows them to negotiate an amnesty for their own abuses. Finally, while unlikely to unfold quickly, the risk exists that (as in Iran in 1979) the broad-based uprising might be coopted by a highly organized minority with militant leanings—in Egypt’s case, the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian society, secular and sophisticated in its urban manifestations, would resist this, perhaps violently.
Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted from a much longer analysis available exclusively to RGE Clients: “Political Upheaval on the Nile: Four Risk-Laden Outcomes.”
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