Stability or chaos, Egypt at crossroad after 10-day unrest

16:44, February 04, 2011      

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As the Egyptian government offered a lot of compromises and pledges to push forward political reforms towards more democracy, the nation is now at the crossroads of uniting to restore stability or letting the protests continue to create chaos.

The day of Friday will be a significant indicator of all these intentions, as some opposition groups have been calling on protesters to launch another mass gatherings to press President Hosni Mubarak to leave office immediately.

As another move to please the opposition, Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on Thursday that the president's son Gamal Mubarak, who now heads the policies committee of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), will not seek presidency in the upcoming polls in August or September.

In an interview with the state television, the vice president elaborated on what the president had called on in terms of amendments of the articles 76 and 77 of the constitution which are about the conditions for presidential candidacy and terms.

He also said the amendments will be finished in 70 days, and promised that amendments to some other articles would also be revised.

On Thursday, the vice president said the government had started dialogue with the opposition parties. The talks will be completed within 10 days.

The banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB), was also invited but they are hesitant, the vice president said.

Analysts believe that the vice president has made positive moves, especially the efforts to hold dialogue with all opposition forces including the outlawed MB.

However, former MB head of the parliamentary bloc Saad El Katatny said Suleiman's words have no clear agendas and that the only way for Egyptians to accept talks with the government is Mubarak's departure.

The MB and the National Coalition for Change led by Mohammed ElBaradei, both insisted no dialogue without the stepping down of the president.

This stance has been highly criticized by many Egyptian protesters who say that they are trying to seize the opportunity to get what they want.

"Both ElBaradei and the MB should go out of our country after Mubarak," said a protester, sitting in a cafe relieving from the day's work.

To make things complicated, clashes have taken place between anti-government protesters and supporters of Mubarak. At least eight were killed and nearly 900 injured in a fighting between the two groups in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the nationwide protests in downtown Cairo.

The Egyptian army moved to intervene to separate anti- and pro- government forces in order to prevent more violence.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik "apologized" to the people in a press conference on Thursday, saying the government had no hand in this and that rioters will be now subject to investigations.

Egypt's top prosecutor issued an order on Thursday to ban three prominent former ministers and a senior NDP official from traveling abroad.

Despite government calls for protesters to return home and restore order, protesters still organize the protests named " Friday of Departure."

It is very difficult to predict whether people will be able to succeed and force the president to step down or not.

"If Mubarak leaves now we are going to face a constitutional disaster, under article 84 no one is allowed to change the constitution except the president," said Yasser Rizk, editor in chief of state-run Akhbar newspaper.

"The regime should offer a compromise by the president assigning all his duties to the vice president who can take the country into a dialogue," said Walid Kazzilia, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo.

Egyptians have become divided since the president delivered his speech on Tuesday, pledging that he will not run for presidential elections in September.

"Let the president at least change the constitution and then leave," said Salma El Banna, a student.

Another Facebook page has been created under the title "No to protesting on Friday 4/2/2011" under which more than 189,000 signed, a large number compared to another page which called for " Friday of Departure" with little over 40,000 members.

"If each group insists on their views, people will have to find a way to get back to normal life," added Kazzilia.

"Already we lost a lot of money in the stock exchange and businesses. Can't they understand we need to rebuild the country," said a girl who declined to be identified.

"Egypt faces a critical time following the protests," Suleiman has said.

President Mubarak also expressed clearly what he was thinking. He told ABC television that he was ready to leave but fears that chaos will follow.

Many hold the same view that the immediate departure of the president may well cause chaos in this country in which opposition parties have been widely divided.

An orderly and peaceful transition of power is the best choice, according to analysts.

"Mubarak will have to go for Egypt to move forward," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political analyst at the Ahram Strategic Studies Center.

Source: Xinhua
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