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Ensuring a Peaceful and Orderly Transition in Egypt

The Obama Administration Must Practice Patient Diplomacy

SOURCE: AP/Amr Nabil

President Hosni Mubarak has announced that he will step down as leader in Egypt, signaling the beginning of a major political transition in the country.

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President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to step down from his post is an important step in Egypt’s ongoing transition to an open, democratic system. He has been a strong ally of the United States and a proponent of peace in the region. But Egypt’s people have bravely expressed their legitimate political voice and demanded an end to his authoritarian regime. As Egypt begins a new chapter in its political history, it is critical that the Egyptian people and the Egyptian government remain committed to a peaceful and orderly transition toward a responsive and democratic political system. The Egyptian military should make clear its commitment to guarantee an open and democratic government for the people of Egypt.

But Mubarak leaving office is only the first step in Egypt’s political transition, and it will not resolve Egypt’s ongoing political crisis. It remains unclear whether the Egyptian people will accept Vice President Omar Suleiman or the Egyptian military as an interim leader. And the National Assembly, Egypt’s legislature, does not reflect the fair vote of the Egyptian people. Constitutional reforms are necessary to open up the political system to all political parties and groups willing to play by the rules of democracy. In short, what Egypt needs is a full reboot of its political system.

With Mubarak out of the way, the hard work of constructing a new political system that reflects the aspirations of the Egyptian people for an open and democratic society must begin. The Egyptian military should make clear its rule is temporary and transitional, not permanent. The energy and bravery of the protestors in Tahrir Square must be harnessed to ensure a lively and constructive debate on Egypt’s future. Opening the political system in advance of a new round of free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections will be a key next step in Egypt’s democratic transition.

The Obama administration should remained focused on the constructive long-term goal of a peaceful and orderly transition to a free and democratic Egypt, and should continue to support steps toward ensuring that outcome. Patient diplomacy will be necessary to ensure that Egypt’s political transition leads to the open and democratic system the Egyptian people have earned.

 Peter Juul is a Research Associate at American Progress.

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