Egypt stands at a crossroads following the resignation on Friday of President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the Arab world’s most populous country for the past 30 years with an iron fist. Pro-democracy activists who had boldly protested at Tahrir Square in Cairo since Jan. 25 pulled off a revolution by forcing the dictator to step down. But the key to the nation’s future is not in their hands. It is held by the military leaders who took over power from Mubarak.
Hence all eyes are on the next move by the Higher Military Council that now runs Egypt. On Saturday, the council pledged commitment to civilian rule and democracy and said they would respect all treaties. But it stopped short of offering a plan for the much-aspired transition to democracy.
If the council wants to restore stability and remove the uncertainty hanging over the future of the nation, it needs to disclose a detailed transition plan, including a timetable for presidential and parliamentary elections, without delay. Otherwise, it will be suspected of attempting to ignore people’s democratic desires and establish a military dictatorship.
If the military leaders attempt to grab power, they will face even stronger opposition from the citizens. Protest organizers at Tahrir Square vowed they would stage more demonstrations if the military failed to meet “the people’s demands.” The furious wave of demonstrations during the past 18 days has clearly shown that Egypt has embarked on an irreversible path toward democracy.
During the political turmoil, Egypt’s military had maintained political neutrality. They refrained from intervening in the standoff between Mubarak and demonstrators. By avoiding the use of force against the demonstrators, they earned respect from the public. Now, Egyptians expect the military to carry out their given role as a caretaker. We hope the military leaders on the council live up to these expectations and put Egypt on track to becoming a full-fledged democracy with a thriving economy.