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Once the immediate euphoria over the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has settled down, some challenging questions about the country's future will have to be addressed. The popular revolution was a call for change, but as NPR's Jackie Northam reports, there are still too many uncertainties to know what shape that change will take.
JACKIE NORTHAM: The events that have unfolded in Egypt over the past days have been momentous and at times there was no way of gauging which way they were going to go. But when Hosni Mubarak finally relinquished his grip on power, the first and major demand of the protestors had been met.
President Obama hailed the development but acknowledged it's still unclear what lies ahead.
President BARACK OBAMA: This is not the end of Egypt's transition. It's a beginning. I'm sure there will be difficult days ahead and many questions remain unanswered.
NORTHAM: One of the biggest unknowns center on if and how Egypt's military -now in power - will set out to meet the underlying demands from the protesters, such as lifting the three-decade-old state of emergency and rewriting Mubarak's restrictive constitution to allow true political reform.
Jon Alterman, a Middle East specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says going from authoritarian rule to military rule is not the same as going from authoritarian rule to democracy.
Mr. JON ALTERMAN (Director, Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies): And if you're relying on the military, which after all was the one that created the system that's been in power in Egypt for 59 years, what assurance do you have the military wants to fundamentally change that system?
NORTHAM: There are also questions as to when new elections will be held and how inclusive they'll be. One of the big unanswered questions is what role the youth movement that launched the protests will end up playing in the future of Egypt. No one figure has clearly risen above the others in this crisis as the next person to take Egypt into a new era.
Kristen Stilt, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law and an expert on Islamic history, says it'll be interesting to see how the election process shapes up.
Professor KRISTEN STILT (Law and History, Northwestern University): Will new parties want to form and register, ones that either couldn't before because they were denied or new ones? Or are we going to be looking at lots of independent candidates? And what rules are going to regulate the formation of those entities, those parties and what will regulate the processes? We don't know yet.
NORTHAM: Nor is it known whether a new Egyptian government would open the common border with Gaza, something Hamas, which rules that area, is already calling for.
Israel relied on the Mubarak regime to help keep stability, including abiding to the 1979 peace accord between the two countries. The Egyptian military issued a statement that agreement would remain in place, news that was welcomed by Israel. But that's as long as the Egyptian military is in control. There are concerns a new government could reconsider the accord.
On his last day as White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs indicated the U.S. also relied on that agreement.
Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (Former White House Spokesman): I think it's important that the next government of Egypt, as we've said in here many times, recognize the accords that have been signed with the government of Israel.
NORTHAM: The U.S. backing of the accord and its unwavering support of the Mubarak regime for almost 30 years wasn't lost on the protesters, and could make it difficult for the Obama administration to forge new ties with Egypt's next government, says the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Alterman.
Mr. ALTERMAN: They saw us as the backers of Mubarak against Egyptian interests in favor of U.S. and Israeli interests. How do we inject ourselves or how do we get welcomed into a system which for the most part sees this as a reason to push us out?
NORTHAM: What would help, Alterman suggests, is having a sense of who will lead Egypt in the future: the military or the protesters.
Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.
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