5 October = 1 February? Or how the regime will end in Egypt

The mass protests called for today remind of the demonstrations organized by the Serbian opposition against the Milosevic regime on 5 October 2000. A make or break confrontation which will force the hand of those sitting on the fence. So what are the possible scenarios now?

1. The protests peter out: Revolution aborted

This is what the regime hopes. The demonstrations will exhaust themselves, increasingly disunited over what to do will just fade away. Afterward the regime cracks down on opposition. While this might be plausible which much smaller demonstrations, the number of people on the street just seems to large for this scenario.

2. The protesters will take over: A Revolution

The protesters will take over institutions and push Mubarak out. Mubarak has to flee if he does not want to risk his life. Such a fully fledged revolution seems equally unlikely as there are too many actors who have in the past supported the regime and will have an interest in preventing a total collapse of the old system. In particular the army has retained sufficient legitimacy to remain a relevant institution.

3. Protesters are attacked: Tiananmen scenario

Security forces suppress mass protests violently, considering the number of protesters the violence against the demonstrators has to be substantial to have any chance of success. Considering the army declaring its support for the grievances of the demonstrators, such a scenario would suggest that those using force would be themselves coming under attack, probably by the army. Thus, this would be more like the Romania 1989 scenario than China 1989. The use of force would also prevent those committing it to have some part in the new regime. In effect, at this point only those with nothing to lose would be candidates.

4. Protestors succeed: 5 October

The protesters show by their numbers that the old regime has lost all legitimacy, they take over crucial symbols of the old regime (TV?) and force the hand of those hedging their bets. As they change sides, the old regime crumbles.

What happens today does not depend on Mubarak, and maybe not so much on protesters either (as long as they show in large numbers), but on those members of the old regime who will have to decide which way to go today. If they decide that Mubarak has no future (which seems pretty obvious), there will be little space for Mubarak to continue.

The challenge might be of what happens on 2 February. In Serbia, 6 October has become the metaphor of the incomplete revolution–the unsavory deals made to secure the end of the Milosevic regime. While such a  Pacted Transition (as in Spain) has greater chances of leading to stable new government and prospects for democracy are better, there is a risk that many Egyptian might feel like the protests did not bring the change they hoped for. This, however, is a topic for another day.

2 Responses to 5 October = 1 February? Or how the regime will end in Egypt

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 5 October = 1 February? Or how will the regime end in Egypt | Florian Bieber -- Topsy.com

  2. Stefan says:

    One possibility could be as well that Mubarak leaves, his deputy takes over. Protesters could at this point regard that they are less in a dilemma than if Mubarak stays -as Mubarak himself is the strongest symbol of the repressive regime that ruled Egypt over the last 30 years. People are going to the streets now, because they know that if they fail now option 1 will prevail and they will suffer the consequences of a crackdown of the police on them. The army could guarantee that elections to a constituent assembly will be hold. There could be elections to a constituent assembly. This assembly could write a new constitution, possibly even changing as well the presidential nature of the country – a temporary inclusive government could be formed in the meantime. I do not know a lot about middle east politics – but a presidential systems could seem to appealing for another strong man to come after Mubarak – therefore better PR. In case no constituent assembly would be elected, a more inclusive government could try to change the constitution. If the vice president does it alone, or just by holding talks with the opposition (as seems the preferred option of the regime), there could still a dilemma, in the sense that protesters do not know if they can trust the Mubarak’s deputy. After a new constitution would have been elaborated, internationally monitored elections could take place. This would be maybe the least bloody scenario for a controlled transition in Egypt. As outside actors maybe will not have a role in reassuring the protesters, the army can act as a crucial facilitator in Egypt’s transition to a democracy.

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