Knox prof says change won’t be easy in Egypt

From The Register-Mail;

By Lisa Coon

The unrest continued in Egypt on Friday as tens of thousands packed central Cairo in a movement to oust President Hosni Mubarak, ending his nearly 30-year authoritarian reign.

“The problem is,” said Sue Hulett, chair of Knox College’s political science department, “is it seems Mubarak has just lost all support and the fear is what will replace Mubarak.”

The campaign to oust the ruler has been violent in recent days as Mubarak supporters have retaliated against the protesters by hurling concrete, metal rebar and firebombs, sending in fighters on horses and camels and releasing barrages of automatic gunfire.

Protesters labelled Friday’s rally the “day of leaving,” the day they hope Mubarak will go. The U.S. was pressing Egypt for a swift start toward greater democracy, including a proposal for Mubarak to step down immediately.

Various proposals for a post-Mubarak transition floated by the Americans, the regime and the protesters share some common ground, but with one elephant-sized difference: The protesters say nothing can be done before Mubarak leaves.

The 82-year-old president insists he will serve out the remaining seven months of his term to ensure a stable process.

“You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now,” Mubarak said he told President Barack Obama. He warned in an interview with ABC News that chaos would ensue.

But the Obama administration was in talks with top Egyptian officials about the possibility of Mubarak immediately resigning and handing over a military-backed transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Such a government would prepare the country for free and fair elections later this year, according to one U.S. official.

“Change has to happen, but it’s not going to be an easy change,” said Hulett, who specializes in international relations and foreign policy. “It’s not going to be one without problems for the U.S. We have to be on the side of the people in this and try and be a force for good in easing the transition in Egypt.