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Can Egypt Change?

Authors: Lisa Anderson, Columbia University, Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, and Michele Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
July 22, 2010
Foreign Policy


Sometimes it seems that the only things that change in Egypt are the police uniforms. In November, when temperatures dip into the 60s, they don black woolen outfits. A few months later, generally March, when it starts getting quite warm again they switch back to their white cotton duds. Everything else seems to be just about the way it always was--my one-eyed barber sitting in the same chair today as the day I met him a decade ago; the guys from the baqqel across the street from where I used to live doing just about the same things as they did when I bid them farewell all those years ago; my doorman is still lording over his corner of Mohamed Mazhar street, and Hosni Mubarak is still the president talking about "stability for the sake of development."  Yet, the president, who has worked with five U.S. counterparts, three of whom served two terms, is sick.  Official denials aside, the timeline for succession is more likely 12-18 months rather than the three-to-five years that had been the working assumption until the president's hospitalization in Germany last March. Mubarak's imminent demise has prompted analysts, policymakers, journalists and other observers to ask, "Can Egypt change?" While the question seems apt at the twilight of the Mubarak era, it nevertheless seems oddly ahistoric.

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