Window of democracy has likely already shut (and Hillary knocks at Suleiman’s door)

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It helps to know something about Egypt if you’re writing about it. (I guess). Here’s a really smart piece by Joshua Stacher of Kent State at Foreign Affairs saying that the “democratic window has probably already closed,” that the regime has never broken down, its central institution, the military, remaining as powerful as ever. And now the gov’t is successfully playing the young demonstrators off against the ordinary citizens’ desire for normal times. Some grim excerpts (Thanks to Ibn Tufayl):

If those guiding the transition choose to direct it toward a democratic end, then it will have to include forces that are currently banned in the country, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and individuals who have been tortured or imprisoned, such as Ayman Nour. It will have to include the youth elements from the street organizing committees as well as the irrelevant figures that head the country’s existing opposition parties. Managing such a transition from dictatorship to democracy is a massive challenge even in the best of times. The leader of the transition will therefore determine whether it results in a genuine democracy or continuous authoritarian rule. If that person is General Omar Suleiman, who was sworn in as vice president on January 30, the prospects for democracy are grim…

The protesters have been given an ambiguous choice about this transition. Go home and — perhaps — be invited to the negotiating table later, or continue protesting and be excluded from Suleiman’s negotiations. Some independent figures, such as Amr Moussa and Nabil Fahmy, have broken ranks with the protesters and met with Suleiman. Given that many of these individuals held previous appointments in Mubarak’s Egypt, protesters will likely be skeptical of their intentions as agents of change.

There is no doubt that the post-Mubarak era is afoot, but it is not necessarily a democratic one. The Egyptian military leaders that are governing the country seem content to leave Mubarak in his place so Suleiman can act as the sitting president. Indeed, even leading government officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have begun to direct their concerns to Suleiman’s office. Hence, as the protesters in Tahrir Square — and the non-protesters facing empty refrigerators and wallets at home — have begun to feel the state’s squeeze, the regime has so far maintained its ability to control how the conflict is unfolding.

When the uprising began in Egypt, many linked the events in Tunis and Cairo and declared that 2011 might be the Arab world’s 1989. Instead, 2011 is showing just how durable and adaptable the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world truly are. Faced with real challenges and moments of potential breakdown, Egypt’s military did not hesitate or even break a sweat

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