Three questions: Egypt’s future

Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst comments on the mass public revolt in Egypt.

A ‘million-man march’ was arranged in Egypt to mark one week of continuous anti-government demonstrations [EPA]

Nationwide public protests against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, and his government shows no signs of abating.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, comments on three crucial issues.

Can Mubarak manage the overwhelming show of dissent and stay in political office until the presidential elections later in the year?
For all practical purpose, Mubarak is history. It will take no less of a miracle or terrible bloodshed to keep him in office any longer.

The cosmetic changes he has carried out over the last few days are meaningless, no less because they have been carried through presidential decrees – this underlines his insistence to micro manage urgent state matters without any role or attention to parliament, the party, or the people in the street.

An orderly and peaceful transition is better off without him, or his new vice, Omar Sulieman, reportedly, among others, the CIA’s point counterpart in Egypt that partnered in the rendition programs that led to terrible torture of innocent people.

The longer they remain in power the messier the transition would be in Egypt. On the other hand, Mubarak and company could be offered assurances that if they agreed to step aside promptly and peacefully, that they would not be prosecuted. 

That the revolution would welcome all into a new open and free political process.

Will the ensuing political instability be a boon for the people of Egypt, or will the vacuum be an opportunity for further repression?
Popular uprisings and revolutions are by nature fluid and unpredictable, as they are more concerned with getting rid of the old than defining the new regime.

They promise change, but can make no guarantees that such change is non violent in the short term or lead to pluralistic democracy in the long term. 

A peaceful transition depends mostly on the existing power brokers, especially the military and its political partners in Cairo – they are to be blamed if it turns violent. 

However, if they agree to cede power, Egypt’s transition to a more open and pluralistic system promises to be less chaotic than many other revolutions. Already the nature of the uprising and its various networks and leaders have shown to be wise and responsible.

The speed in which they have organised their demonstrations building on its civic and political dimensions, and the skill in which they created temporary representation that can negotiate and manage a peaceful transition, is impressive and bode well for the future of the country.

But it will take more than elections and the rule of the majority to guarantee Egyptian democracy. The rule of democratic principles need to be enshrined in a new constitution that regulates among others the role of the military and the authorities of the president who must vow to respect and protect.

If Mubarak is ousted who or what has the likeliest chance of replacing him?
What’s important is WHAT replaces Mubarak the regime, not WHO will replace Mubarak the person. Replacing Mubarak the person but maintaining Mubarak’s regime would be meaningless, as any new figure-leader will continue to answer to the same bankrupt power structure, not to the people. 

On the other hand, replacing the Mubarak regime with a new democratic system could guarantee that whoever becomes president will abide by the will of the people and the country’s institutions.

Whether it’s one of the more pronounced opposition figures, or one of the nationally accepted figures, or even a temporary caretaker council of both, a transition period needs to be short and prepare for elections. 

Transparent and free elections can bring more surprises than that of 3 decades of more of the same … ‘and the winner is, Mubarak…!’

The guessing game has already started regarding the role and size of the liberal, Left or Muslim Brotherhood camps and popularity of their leaders. At last, Egyptians will give us their own answer.

And eventually, amend or write up a new constitution that guarantees their right to change their mind about who will lead them next and after.