Journal Article

The Road to (and from) Liberation Square

| July 14, 2011

It is easy now to see why Egypt’s revolution had to happen, and why
President Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year reign had to end in the spectacular
manner in which it did. Even the most casual observer of the Egyptian
scene can recite from the expansive catalogue of ills that Mubarak had
visited upon the land: a large and growing corps of angry young people
with no jobs and no prospects; the repeated thwarting of the voters’
will; crumbling public infrastructure whose sole purpose seemed to be
supplying newspaper headlines about train crashes and ferry sinkings;
corruption so brazen that it was often written into law; and daily acts
of casually dispensed brutality, culminating in the June 2010 murder of
a young man in a seaside town by the very police who were ostensibly
charged with protecting him.

And then there was the matter of the dictator’s age. In recent years,
the octogenarian ruler’s health had become a matter of state, and woe
betide anyone daring (or foolish) enough to suggest that the president
could be anything less than fully fit. In 2008, a court sentenced the journalist
Ibrahim Eissa to six months in prison for “damaging the public
interest and national stability” by publishing what it called “false information
and rumors” about Mubarak’s health. Yet despite the regime’s
attempts to present the leader as immortal, the specter of his eventual
demise loomed over the political landscape. The regime never quite
managed to convey the impression that it had planned for the day after
Mubarak, that the ship of state would sail on undisturbed. There was
an attempt—half-hearted and clumsy—to present Mubarak’s second
son, an international banker named Gamal, as the inevitable successor,
but this did not sit well with the Egyptian street or, it seems, with the
Egyptian military.

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For Academic Citation: Masoud, Tarek. "The Road to (and from) Liberation Square." Journal of Democracy, 22 (2011): 20-34

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