As uncertainty grips Egypt the world cannot help but look to the future, wondering what it holds for this country in chaos. Reports of mass protests and civilian vigilantes have become commonplace, but who these people are, and the future they represent, can sometimes be confusing. Here is a brief summary of the main players.
Hosni Mubarak: The country’s president maintains he will remain in office until democratic elections take place in September. The justification for this is to prevent national chaos and disorder. Ironically it seems that all the president needs to do to regain peace, in the short term at least, is precisely what he is refusing to do: resign.
Omar Suleiman: The vice-president and former chief of intelligence. Allegedly, pre-protests, he represented the preferred successor to Mubarak by Israel and the U.S.A. It is hard to see Suleiman as a viable option now as Egyptians are no more likely to accept the right hand of Mubarak as their leader than they are to accept Mubarak’s son.
WAFD party: Technically an opposition party, suspicions over it’s intimacy with the present government means it is unlikely the party will be able to gain much support in the current political climate.
Mohamed ElBaradei: Nobel peace prize recipient ElBaradei formed the National Association for Change and his support of a Democratic Egypt has established him as a popular potential leader. ElBaradei has shown his support for the protesters, but he has not taken on a distinct role as their leader. Other opposition groups such as the Al Ghad Party, who lost power when its leader Ayman Nour was imprisoned on dubious charges, have become associated with the organisation. However the NAC may not be radical enough for many activists and this will inevitably cause rifts within this delicate coalition.
Civilian Protesters: The protests, especially in the beginning, were populated by young Egyptians who have grown up under Mubarak’s rule. The protesters are adamant that significant change must come; however without political leadership there is no practical methodology behind the demands. Nevertheless their unrelenting dedication to protest is the driving force behind the political situation. Reports of workers joining pro-Democracy strikes include doctors and lawyers showing it is not simply the unemployed or disillusioned that have taken to the streets.
The Muslim Brotherhood: This Islamic group are thought to have garnered the most support among the Egyptian people. Yet the anti-West stance of the group is problematic for the U.S.A. (a country wielding significant power in Egypt) who see Egypt as a key foothold in the Middle East. If Egypt were to become an Islamic state it might reinforce a pan-Arab unity, and consequently become less susceptible to western influence. Furthermore, although the Muslim Brotherhood is careful to appear moderate and associate itself with ElBaradei’s NAC, many cannot help but think of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. The pro-Western monarchy was overthrown only to create a country that thirty years on has a worrying human rights record, especially against women, and strict censorship restraints. A similar fate is envisioned by some for Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood were to win power.
Among the groups opposing Mubarak many links and coalitions are emerging, and, although there are disagreements, the majority seem united on two key issues: democracy must be established in Egypt and leadership must be chosen by the Egyptian people alone. However, until the stalemate between president and protesters is broken the situation seems fated keep the country in a state of confusion and chaos.