Working With the Opposition

Working With the Opposition
Op-Ed New York Times
While there is no risk-free change in a country that has been under authoritarian government for so long, Egyptians today face the real possibility that they will soon have the right and the ability to choose and to change their government for the first time ever.
Related Topics
Related Media and Tools

Egypt’s military leadership will be eager to restore stability and normality to the country as quickly as possible, and to do that they will need to signal movement toward a democratic transition. They will need to name a transitional civilian leadership incorporating respected figures from civil society or opposition.

The military, or perhaps the new civilian leadership, will need to clarify the path forward toward constitutional reform to allow free elections. These steps will be essential to persuade protesters to begin leaving the streets and it is hard to see how military leaders can avoid them even if their ultimate intentions are not clear.

There will be many indications in the coming days of whether military leaders can leave behind old ways and move in the direction of democracy. Lifting the state of emergency immediately would be a critical signal; it is not as though Egypt lacks a regular penal code that would allow arrest and prosecution of those committing crimes.

Welcoming all relevant opposition and protest groups to participate in negotiations with the government, and being a bit patient with such groups as they attempt to organize themselves in the coming days and weeks, would bode well. Allowing the state-run media to report freely on developments, as they suddenly began to do in the last few days, and allowing a wide range of opinions to be expressed there would be good signs, whereas attempts to manipulate or mislead public opinion through such media would be ominous.

Even if military leaders believe they must lead the country toward democracy, there are many pitfalls along the way that could change their minds. Restarting Egypt’s economy and meeting what might be unrealistic expectations for prosperity are likely to prove difficult and might well lead to fresh protests. A resurgence of terrorism, sectarian tensions, or any form of external security threat could raise tensions between the military and civilians dangerously.

Yet it is important to keep in mind that, while there is no risk-free change in a country that has been under authoritarian government for so long, Egyptians today face the real possibility, if not the certainty, that they will soon have the right and the ability to choose and to change their government for the first time ever.

End of document

More from The Global Think Tank

Publication Resources

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address in the field below to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Middle East Center
Emir Bechir Street, Lazarieh Tower Bldg. No. 2026 1210, 5th flr. Downtown Beirut, P.O.Box 11-1061 Riad El Solh, Lebanon
Phone: +961 1 99 12 91 Fax: +961 1 99 15 91
Please note...

You are leaving the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy's website and entering another Carnegie global site.