By James R. Riffel
City News Service
Overthrowing dictators in Egypt and Tunisia will end up having been much easier than building stable democracies in those Arab countries of North Africa, a University of San Diego professor said Friday.
Hosni Mubarak resigned as president of Egypt less than 24 hours after announcing he would cling on to power, and several weeks after the eruption of political protests. He handed power over to the military, a highly respected institution in Egypt, sparking mass celebrations in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.
"The question of the day, I guess, is will this usher in a new day for democracy, or will it simply usher in a new day of military rule?" said Avi Spiegel, an expert on the Middle East at USD. "It's too soon to say, really."
It took a few weeks to remove Mubarak and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, but it could be months before new leaders emerge, Spiegel said.
"These things take time,"Spiegel said.
The professor said neither country has the stable political parties or institutions to quickly move to an effective democracy.
Some fear the void in Egypt could be filled by the Muslim Brotherhood, but Spiegel said the strength of the Islamist group was inflated by Mubarak to create a pretext to exert tight controls over the country.
"Their power does not even come close to that of the military," Spiegel said, adding that the Muslim Brotherhood will lose in the marketplace of ideas.
Egypt, which borders Israel and maintains the Suez Canal, is now ruled by the Armed Forces Supreme Council, made up of top military leaders — akin to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States.
The Egyptian army is Africa's biggest, as well as the biggest in the Arab world.