Inside Egypt

A reader writes:

In the "inside baseball" view of Egyptian politics, for the last month the game has been between VP Omar Suleiman and Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (sometimes also written Tantavi). The two have been very bitter rivals for most of the last decade, and it's known, for instance, that Tantawi blocked Suleiman's appointment as VP in earlier years. In the final hours of Mubarak, Suleiman stood decisively for Mubarak, urging that he stay on, while Tantawi led the joint chiefs of the military to accept Mubarak's departure as inevitable and then to make the final push for it immediately after his Thursday speech. Tantawi is now clearly ascendant, and Suleiman, though not out of the picture entirely, has been marginalized.

So far the military has taken a number of steps that nonexperts have characterized as anti-democratic--suspending the constitution and dissolving parliament.

If you understand something about Egypt, however, you know that these were actually the top two demands of the agitators for democracy, because they're the two things that stand in the way. The reform faction now hopes that the "expert councils" will be formed with broad political participation and probably led by a handful of the nation's best known judges. Their role will be to prepare the stage for new elections. If it's done right, this process won't be rushed because it will take some time and the elections will then follow in half a year. So far at least, the reform advocates have no real cause to be upset with the military council but history gives them every reason to be anxious about how things will develop further.

What we have seen so far is the adoption of nonviolent people power. What will be critical is the building of institutions and parties that can turn that slowly into a constitutional democratic republic. That's the test. I'm hopeful, but it will be quite the miracle if they pull it off.

Here's the full text of an expert analysis from which my reader draws of what's been going on from professor Cherif Bassiouni of DePaul Law School, who's as plugged in as anyone. Fascinating and hopeful stuff, especially about the military's steady hand.