Egypt’s pro-democracy protesters will get nowhere without a leader

Ever since Egyptian demonstrators first took to the streets two years ago to demand the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, they have suffered from one glaring handicap: they do not have a leader.

In a country that gave the world iconic statesmen such as Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat, you would have thought that there was no shortage of bright young Egyptians queuing up to claim the mantle of leadership for themselves.

The demonstrators who occupied Tahrir Square at the start of the unrest two years ago, as well as those have taken up residence at the same location, have been very clear in articulating what they do not want: for the current regime to remain in power. But when it comes to what they would like to take its place, they have been less forthcoming.

During the original Tahrir Square demonstrations there were vague noises made about the establishment of democracy and the rule of law, but the failure of the protesters to put forward a capable and articulate leader to press their case meant that when the elections did take, place the Muslim Brotherhood – which has long campaigned against Western-style democracy – emerged as the victors.

And I fear the protesters are no nearer to achieving their goals this time round than they were in 2011. They are clear that they would like to see the back of President Mohammed Morsi, but precisely what kind of government they would like to see if he is driven from office is very much an open question.

And without decisive leadership, the current unrest is likely to result in Egypt falling once more under military dictatorship, a result that would negate all the sacrifices that have been made by ordinary Egyptians.

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