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Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: If he goes there will be trouble

If he stays there will be double.

Will he stay, or will he go now?

Mubarak is clinging on as all leaders like him do.

Suharto in Indonesia was similar. Suharto handed over to his non-entity deputy, Habibi after a week of protests, riots, mass demonstrations and a parliamentary occupation. The Muslim brotherhoods were featured in the media as more prominent players than they really were in Indonesia's case and probably Egypt's case as well. Suharto pulled the same lame stunt that Mubarak did as an initial move to placate the opposition: a cabinet reshuffle. That didn't work - that wasn't the issue - it's the President that is the issue. Taking a bit off the end of the tail won't kill the snake, it has to be decapitated.

In Egypt as in Indonesia the old cabal of the regime remains at least a week behind the public mood which radicalises and challenges the old authorities more each day and becomes more organised and resolute. In Indonesia's situation it was only at the point where the entire centre of the capital had to be put into military occupation to stop a mass demonstration and the corresponding assembly of hundreds of thousands at the parliamentary precinct that was the final point of the crisis that lead to Suharto's escorted and permanent retirement. But how can any autocrat and his flunkies, ruling in a detached microclimate of oppulence and fear for decades, ever be able to comprehend that they must resign, that they must hand it over and in some cases make their escape? They may not be capable of it. In the past the Americans have resorted to tricking and abducting rulers who haven't been able to get their heads around it.

Sometimes the exit is an unedifying motorcade of Lexii fleeing with mistresses and suitcases of Euro across the border or to the airport and off into exile. Sometimes, as in Suharto's case, their status as an independence hero and their army connexions mean they can remain, Krushev-like, Pinochet-like, as a guarded recluse in their country: relying on the continued institutional support of the security forces and their old ruling party and perhaps a shonky amnesty law to prevent prosecution. Sometimes, as in Mubarak's case probably, and also in Mugabe's case I would think, they have gone beyond the toleration of the public and in any popular or revolutionary situation (such as we have in Egypt) their exile abroad would be triggered by the formation of a new national government (whether or not they ordered him to be arrested). The army had to take the side of the Reformasi movement and get rid of the dictator allowing a transition to take place in Indonesia, even if they knew it could result in a lessening of their own influence at some point; they preferred that to having to kill potentially thousands of their own people. What will Egypt's army do?


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