07 February, 2011

Egypt can't afford any long goodbye

Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - Few things in politics are as certain as the time when a government leader has to go. For President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, that time has come. Mounting street protests across the country point to a single inevitable conclusion: that Mubarak must leave office, and do so expeditiously with minimal human and social cost.

After three decades in power, there is nothing more he can do for his country except retire gracefully. The need for him to step down is neither in question nor a partisan issue. He had announced his decision to leave office at Egypt's next elections in September before bringing forward the time of his departure.

At issue now is only the precise date for him to quit. Since he has no reason to delay, and all the signs point to a nation in turmoil requiring swift closure, let that date come soon.

At stake are not only the fortunes of a great nation with an impressive history and culture, but also the stability and security of an entire region which does not need Egypt to totter on the brink indefinitely.

Mubarak said this week he no longer wanted to be president, and the only reason he remained in office was the fear that his sudden departure would invite chaos. Let such misplaced anxieties be put to rest to prevent chaos.

The president has already appointed a new vice-president, prime minister and Cabinet. These are experienced people respected by the military, and who already serve in a caretaker government in all but name. Unlike the police, the military is a professional and impartial force respected by all, including anti-government protesters. It is more than capable in serving the nation and an interim government until proper elections are held.

The main factor fueling anti-government protests, pro-government counter-protests, and the bloody clashes between them is Mubarak in the presidential office.
He now has a historic opportunity to do the right thing for the nation by ensuring an immediate and peaceful transition.

The only alternative is for Egypt, the land of the Great Pharaohs and one of the world's earliest civilizations, to be broken miserably by mobs and thugs. In such challenging times, it takes a true leader to know what he must do and do it.


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