Mubarak Stands Down, What Comes Next? Analysts React.

BY Larisa Epatko  February 11, 2011 at 4:20 PM EDT


Rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Following President Hosni Mubarak stepping down on Friday, analysts weighed in on the country’s next steps as he hands over powers to the military.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a statement saying it would guarantee that the following occur: end the state of emergency “once the present circumstances end,” implement constitutional amendments and hold a “free and fair” presidential election. The military also said it wouldn’t detain those who demanded reform.

We spoke to several analysts to get their assessments (some were edited for length):

Hisham Melhem
Washington bureau chief for al-Arabiya and Washington correspondent for the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar

“We don’t know what’s going to happen. We are on Chapter 1 of this play. The pharaoh is gone, but there are a lot of questions still unanswered: How are they going to go through transition? How are they going to co-opt this movement and engage it into the political process? Will someone in the army emerge as a leader, and will they be willing to transfer power to a civilian government?

“To my knowledge, we have only one historical precedent where the army took over in Sudan and the general said that he will transfer power when the right time comes, and he kept his word. This never happened in Egypt, and to be honest there is a poor track record when the army steps in, becomes a guardian of the democratic reform and then steps aside.

“People are happy, many say, people and the army are one. But it does not yet mean that the army is a reformer. They have a lot of economic privileges, great economic privileges. They control businesses, and they do not want to lose them. Yes, this is the moment for celebration, enthusiasm — but there is a lot to think about.”

Robert Springborg

Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs
Naval Postgraduate School

“There’s no constitutional precedent for this; the constitution does not provide for a military government in the form of this supreme military council. So no one quite knows what this means. Was it the military demanding this? Was it Mubarak conniving with the military? What exactly was it, and what will its powers be, and who then would negotiate with them? In short, we basically don’t know what the structure is going to be for all of this and how long that this situation will persist.”

Samer Shehata

Assistant professor of Arab politics at the School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University

“This is a victory of the people, who for weeks had been protesting peacefully to achieve political change. They removed Mubarak. But it’s not certain whether what follows will be closer to democracy. It is not certain except that the struggle has to continue. It’s going to be harder because previously everyone was united around one goal. Now that the primary goal had been achieved, there may be less unity around achieving the more important goal, which is establishing a democratic political system. We don’t know what kind of response we should expect from the military leadership, whether they will be responsive to demands of the people, whether the emergency law will be annulled and whether constitutional reforms will be implemented for free and fair elections to take place. It seems that a harder part will start tomorrow.”

Matthew Axelrod
Served as North Africa and Egypt director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2007

“When it comes to the question of what’s next, the military will still be trying to contend between their two overarching interests. The first is to maintain their credibility with the Egyptian people. And the second is to maintain their interests, which would be economic and political, and in that to a certain degree the status quo they enjoyed before these events took place. I think anything will have to be dictated by those two overarching interests.”

Mila Sanina contributed to this report. We’ll have more analysis of the day’s events in Egypt on Friday’s NewsHour. Follow us on Twitter.