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Mubarak stepping down in Egypt: Was it a coup?

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But in many ways the military was already running the country. It’s true that Mubarak created civilian security forces to protect his regime and in some ways has lessened the military’s traditional involvement in Egyptian politics. But Mubarak was a military man himself, the former head of the Egyptian Air Force. So was Anwar Sadat. The military has been Egypt’s locus of power since it overthrew the nation’s monarchy in 1952. Is it a coup if you change the figure at the top of a pyramid you already control?

And this may be only the beginning. Mubarak’s removal was the protesters’ central demand, but far from the only one. Many have called for an expansion of civil and political rights – in short, democracy – as well. Mubarak’s turtle-like slowness in reacting to the protests may have only inflamed the situation. A week ago his resignation might have been enough. It might not be, now.

Street pushing for civilian rule

“We are in a pre- or quasi-revolutionary moment in Egypt, which means it is highly unpredictable where this is going to go,” says William Martel, an associate professor of security studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Massachusetts.

Passions are such that the protesters are unlikely to accept meekly a military-run government, says Professor Martel. They will want to have representation of some sort on whatever transitional council emerges from the current chaos.

“At this point I’m not sure it matters much whether Mubarak is out and Suleiman is in,” says Martel. “The political demands in Egypt will swamp [the military’s] current plans.”

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