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Washington Post: How Egypt can build lasting democracy in a post-Mubarak world

Author: Larry Diamond
February 4, 2011


In this Washington Post Op-Ed, Larry Diamond argues that fragile democracies become stable when people who once had no use for democracy embrace it. Diamond then details five steps Egyptians must take to ensure democracy flourishes in Egypt.

Two decades after the fall of Soviet-bloc dictatorships, popular movements for democracy are erupting in the last regional bastion of authoritarianism: the Arab world.

So far, only Tunisia's dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, has been toppled, while Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak - who has ruled that ancient land longer than many pharaohs - announced Tuesday that he will step down in September. But other Arab autocrats are bound to go. From Algeria to Syria to Jordan, people are fed up with stagnation and injustice, and are mobilizing for democratic change.

So, what happens when the autocrat is gone? Will the end of despotism give way to chaos - as happened when Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled in 1997 after more than 30 years in power in Zaire? Will the military or some civilian strongman fill the void with a new autocracy - as occurred after the overthrow of Arab monarchs in Egypt and Iraq in the 1950s, and as has been the norm in most of the world until recently? Or can some of the Arab nations produce real democracy - as we saw in most of Eastern Europe and about half the states of sub-Saharan Africa? Regime transitions are uncertain affairs. But since the mid-1970s, more than 60 countries have found their way to democracy. Some have done so in circumstances of rapid upheaval that offer lessons for reformers in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries today.

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