The resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak today (February 11) translates to a change that Vancouver historian Paul Sedra predicts will reshape the region.
But the Egyptian politics expert said that while the president’s departure marks a significant moment in the country’s history, a major transition process is ahead before the pro-democracy protestors’ goals are fully achieved.
“We have to keep in mind that we’re very far from the end of this process – indeed we’re only at the beginning,” said Sedra. “Removing the dictator himself is extremely important from a symbolic point of view. What is going to be the most important is installing a new system of government in Egypt – one that will enable a democratically-elected civilian leadership to take control of the country.”
Sedra said the historically-unprecedented success of the protest, which lasted for over two weeks, is cause for hope.
“For the first time in at least a couple of generations, there is hope,” said Sedra. “There is hope on the horizon for Arabs generally, for Egyptians in particular, and that’s what makes this moment so thrilling and that’s what I think is motivating the tremendous excitement that we now see in Liberation Square.”
Vice president Omar Suleiman's announcement of Mubarak's resignation today was greeted with cheers from hundreds of thousands of people in Tahrir Square, Al Jazeera reported.
Sedra noted the military was likely working behind the scenes to push for Mubarak's resignation, following a speech yesterday in which he indicated he wouldn't step down before the September elections.
But the SFU professor said while the army has a major role to play in the country's transition, there is likely a sense of weariness among some Egyptians, given that the country has historically been governed by military leaders.
“I think people are undoubtedly very grateful to the military for having done that, but I think they’re also weary as well because ever since Egypt secured its independence from Britain [it] has been ruled by military men,” he said. “The last thing I think that most of the people who were out protesting in the streets want is another military man ruling them.”
Mubarak's resignation followed 18 days of mass protests against the president.