A Plan to Ease Tensions in Egypt

Friday, 28 Jan 2011 04:28 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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Riots have broken out all over Egypt. Initially, the protestors demanded solutions for unemployment and poverty. Later on, some of them demanded that President Hosni Mubarak step down.

The demonstrators shouted against the president and his son Gamal, “Say to your father all the nation hates you.”

The government initially responded with rubber bullets but things quickly escatated. Demonstrators began burning and damaging to property as the police become more aggressive. This has resulted in several deaths on both sides.

As a result of the chaos, Egyptian currency and stocks suffered severe losses. Demonstrators burned more facilities, including the main office of the National Democratic Party that represents the government.

The government responded by ordering a curfew for the entire country and asked the armed forces to intervene.

The problem that currently faces the country is that if the Mubarak government collapses, the country can sink into chaos for an unknown period of time.

In such a situation, it will not be surprising if internal divisions within the Mubarak regime may end his control over power so that those who will revolt against him may be perceived as heroes by the protestors and thus can remain in power.

In this situation, wise decisions must be made to save the country from uncontrollable chaos.

So, what should be done?

First, President Mubarak must address the nation (he has not done so as of this writing) to show demonstrators some respect. This can absorb part of their anger.

He should give people hope without appearing weak (weakness may actually aggravate the riots). The president must tell rioters that their violence has affected the economy negatively and this can make prices of food and other consumer products even higher.

He should welcome peaceful expression of opinion and be clear that there will be zero tolerance of violent demonstrations.

The president must appoint a vice president right away. A vice president who is popular with citizens could be very helpful to give people hope for a change in the political situation and can put an end to their anger that is partially related to the inheritance of the presidency that delegates power to the son.

Provide clear time limits for the government to take some decisions and active steps to relieve extreme poverty in the country. Giving promises without having a timeline makes the situation worse as for several decades people have been hearing lip service without actions from some government officials.

The president Mubarak must declare that he will appoint a special advisory committee for his office at the presidential level.

This committee must include leaders of different opposition groups and respected individuals such as Mohamed ElBaradei and even members of the Muslim brotherhood (even if he disagrees with their views).

This approach may provide some relief and absorb some anger that developed after the recent election when the government nearly controlled every seat in the parliament with no representatives from the opposition.

The public will see this as a form of respect to some of their demands which may help calm the situation.

These short-term solutions are aimed at controlling the situation until more long-term solutions can be presented.

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