Mubarak’s got to goAll eyes are on the political tumult and democratization movement simmering in the Arab world. Thousands of angry Egyptian protestors have defied a curfew and the military presence in week-long rallies on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, trying to end three-decades of authoritarian rule by President Hosni Mubarak.
The civilian uprising in Tunisia last month quickly spread to nearby Egypt and threatens significant repercussions for other despots in the region - such as in Sudan and Algeria - as well as across the sea in Yemen and Jordan.
If the Egyptians succeed in bringing down the Mubarak government as the Tunisians did with Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, their leader of 23 years, the revolutionary fervor may trigger a domino effect on other repressive regimes. The landscape of the Muslim world - which managed to shrug off the global trend toward democracy since the 1980s - may exact dramatic changes in the political and economic world.
For now, President Mubarak holds the key for paving the way to a peaceful transition to democracy or bringing on a bloodbath. After their display of fearless resistance, Egyptians are hardly likely to settle for his government’s reform gestures. Their clamorous protests will only be silenced when Mubarak steps down in answer to public frustration over corruption, abuses, and economic hardship that stemmed from his prolonged dictatorship.
If democracy takes root in Egypt - a regional linchpin and Washington’s strongest ally in its campaign for peace in the Middle East and its battles with Islamic extremists - all Muslim states in African and Middle East may be affected. Egypt has played a vital mediating role between Israelites and the Palestinians, and its strong stand against terrorist-prone Islamic extremism helped to maintain peace and balance in the region.
The United States has so far turned a blind eye to the authoritarian ways of the Mubarak government because of its valuable contribution in sustaining regional order. But Washington has to tread carefully to appear sympathetic to the democratic movement in Egypt while at the same time preventing power from falling into the hands of extremist groups. Turmoil in the strategically important region is already unsettling global oil prices and financial markets.
People power has finally arrived in the Arab world, and we hope the movement can sow the seeds of democracy without taking a heavy toll on the lives of the people and the fragile global economy.