Throughout their pro-democracy protests, Egyptians chanted, “The people want to topple the regime.” On Friday, they got what they wished for, but with a decisive push from the military.
In 1952, it was the military that toppled the monarchical regime, but this time it was the people who brought Mubarak down.
I was in Tahrir Square Friday night and I witnessed millions of Egyptians relieved and jubilant that the High Military Council ousted Mr. Mubarak and assumed control of the country. This move put a happy end to mounting fears that Mr. Mubarak’s refusal on Thursday to step down would drag Egypt into a bloody confrontation between the military and the protesters.
For the past three weeks, the military’s role seemed ambiguous. It remained loyal to the regime, while repeatedly expressing understanding of the legitimacy of the protesters’ demands. Some protesters told me that the military supported their protests, and that officers, who were surrounding Tahrir Square with their tanks, urged the demonstrators to remain steadfast.
While the military’s intervention spared the country from chaos, what about the future of democracy? Has the military takeover hijacked the democratic revolution? Wasn’t that exactly what happened in Egypt almost 60 years ago when the military took over wordpress power and promised, among other things, to establish a healthy democratic life but never delivered?
The situation today is different. In 1952, it was the military that toppled the monarchical regime, but this time it was the people who brought Mr. Mubarak down and it is the people who will keep the pressure on to ensure that a civilian democratic system is in place.
The protests have empowered Egyptians who were able to organize, manage their daily life, provide for their own security and get rid of the pharaoh peacefully for the first time in their history.
This piece originally was published in The New York Times