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Mubarak's legacy – and his downfall: A stale stability

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Though he and his aides promised a political opening for more than a decade, his actions were something else again. The last parliamentary election on his watch, in November 2010, was widely viewed as the most rigged of his time in office, returning more than 95 percent of the seats to the NDP.

Mubarak's singular achievement was a stability – some would say stagnation – that kept Egypt out of war, at peace with Israel, and the beneficiary of billions of dollars in American largesse. The tanks on the streets of Cairo today and the best planes in the Air Force were largely underwritten by the American taxpayer.

He tended close US ties and the Camp David accords, maintaining a cold peace with Israel that was simultaneously deeply unpopular with the Egyptian public and appreciated. To the average Egyptian, Israel is a symbol of oppression, but they also appreciated that their sons were no longer being asked to die in wars with their small and powerful neighbor.

Still, Mubarak oversaw Egypt's steady decline in regional relevance from the glory years of Nasser. While he led the country back into the Arab League in 1989 (Egypt's membership was suspended after Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem in 1979), it rejoined as one member among many, never to regain its past influence. Rising regional powers less reliant on the West, more aligned with popular opinion, and having the ambition to pursue bold positions, emerged.

Economic growth but at a cost

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