EGYPT – A WAKE-UP CALL FOR BOTH EAST AND WEST
By Howard Wheeldon, Senior Strategist at BGC Partners
02 Feb 10. Western governments hailing events in Egypt that by the hour appear to be leading to the end of Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year hold on power might do as well to take great care of what they might wish for as a replacement. Assuming that demonstrators keep up the pace and that army commanders are true to their word of partially standing aside we may assume that Mubarak will go within days. Hopefully the end of yet another repressive regime then and yet one that is unlikely to be marked by replacement with a true form of democratically elected government if for no other reason than a lack of time. Right now Egypt is it seems is not only in a political void but a political vacuum when it comes to who might best succeed Hosni Mubarak. For now the people and the rest of the world are mere onlookers and they can except expound words of wisdom do very little but wait with baited breath for someone to his or her head above the parapet.
Interestingly what is now being played out in Egypt is almost a virtual repeat of what was taking place right across Eastern Europe more than twenty years ago. It is people power and it reflects a disgust of repressive leaders and their puppet governments that have overstayed their welcome. But we should take care to understand the wider political, diplomatic and defense implications of any change in leadership within a mid-east nation. Israel, Gaza and tensions that exist in the wider mid-east arena must all be considered along with how any change in the Cairo based government plays out on relations with the west. We may hope that events now being played out in Cairo and other cities across Egypt could lead to an acceptable form of government for the people. We may hope that any change in government when it comes will lead to stability and maybe one day permanency of a truly democratically elected government. But we must also realise not only that others may have very different ideas but also that pushing democracy too hard on any nation that may be regarded as an impoverished state all too often has negative implications.
After what unfolded in Tunisia last month perhaps we should not have been so surprised that the peoples of other nations would chose almost the same moment to take a stand against repressive leadership. Almost as if to be one step ahead, King Abdullah of Jordan yesterday took the unusual step of sacking the government and appointing Marouf Bakhit as Prime Minister. Clearly such changes as these have not gone down well with some but while there have quite definitely been signs of protest we do not believe that the system of government in Jordan as yet another pro western nation will be tested just yet. However, as Prince Hassan who is a senior member of the Jordanian royal family has already publically said, “we are living in a time of deep anxiety in the Arab world”. Other nations right across the mid-east are already on their guard fearing the possibility of not only the potential of a rise against their own repressive governments but also of the implications and wider consequences for peace in the region from what is going on in Egypt. Having said that, whilst there will clearly be a greater awareness by the neighbouring countries of Egypt and particularly those that continue to operate what are deemed repressive regimes I do not anticipate widespread contagion in the region following on from events now fast unfolding in Egypt. For western governments too the fear is that along with political change that may on one hand be positive in that it leads to greater freedom of choice and human rights including should they desire to even follow a western style living let alone use the vote but moreover a belief also that the negative of free and open society has too often in the past provided scope for a more radical style of Islamism to take hold.
For now we may