Egypt's Military Takes Charge; What's Next?
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And Im Robert Siegel.
The Egyptian military is now in charge of its country. Earlier today, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down. He also revealed that power had shifted to the country's Supreme Military Council.
As NPR's Tom Bowman reports, it's still a mystery exactly how the military came to power and whether it can bring democracy to Egypt.
TOM BOWMAN: It was a seemingly contradictory sight, hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protestors in Cairo's Tahrir Square praising the military for taking over. Mohamed Elbaradei, a Nobel Prize recipient, is one of the movement's leaders.
Dr. MOHAMED ELBARADEI (Nobel Prize Laureate): We have always had confidence that the army will come when Egypt in a crisis. And they have come absolutely at the right moment.
BOWMAN: A moment when the protestors had grown angry that Mubarak seemed to be unwilling to leave. It's not entirely clear how the final exit was orchestrated, but the military seems to have been the key player.
Professor GAWDAT BAHGAT (National Defense University): Gradually, the army was losing confidence in Mubarak. Most likely the military leaders went to Mubarak and told him that there is no way - you have to step down.
BOWMAN: Gawdat Bahgat is and Egyptian who teaches Security Studies at National Defense University.
Prof. BAHGAT: And I suspect this probably one reason for his decision to step down. And the main concern now, what will happen in the next few months.
Dr. JON ALTERMAN (Director, Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies): This is the beginning of a very uncertain process, both the timing, the outcome of which are very unclear.
BOWMAN: That's Jon Alterman, Middle East scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The overriding question he's highlighted: How does an undemocratic institution like the military lead Egypt into a democratic future?
Dr. ALTERMAN: Egypt is now being ruled by martial law. And if you'd like martial law instead of civilian rule, we can do that - apparently what Egyptians are quite delighted with.
BOWMAN: Alterman says there's little understanding how Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will operate. How do they work together? Do they even think alike? Are there divisions? Alterman says it's all a mystery.
For his part, Mohamed Elbaradei believes that the Egyptian military will soon reach out to what he calls the wide spectrum of Egyptian society. The army will share power with civilians, he predicts.
Andrew McGregor, head of the Global Terrorism Analysis Program at the Jamestown Foundation, says whenever elections are held there will likely be a candidate from among those now ruling the country.
Dr. ANDREW MCGREGOR (Director, Aberfoyle International Security, Jamestown Foundation): There will be a candidate from the military and he'll do just as Mr. Mubarak did. He'll take off the uniform and run as a civilian.
BOWMAN: That happened not long after the first military takeover in 1952. The leader was a little-known colonel named Gamal Abdel Nasser. Before long, he became the country's president.
Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.
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