January 25, 2011, will go down in history as the day when the Egyptian people decided enough was enough. And just over two weeks later, on February 11, the end of President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule marked a new beginning for Egypt. Since then, as Mubarak and his associates remain on trial for abuses committed during his reign, Egyptians are left to wonder what their revolution really accomplished.
Though Egyptians cut the head off of the Mubarak regime, much of it remains in power. In particular, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military arm of the Mubarak regime that abandoned him just before his fall, has been in charge of the country and is responsible for organizing the upcoming parliamentary elections, now scheduled for late November. Criticism of the military is reaching new heights following its crackdown against Coptic Christian protesters early this month, and many now question whether the military will fulfill its promise to hand Egypt over to civilian rule.
Like the Tunisians, Egyptians face a rough road ahead both economically and politically, as more than a hundred groups around the country, including Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood, vie for control of the constitutional process.
And what comes next in Egypt will matter not only for Egyptians and others in the region, but for the United States as well. "Egypt is a country that matters significantly. It has a disproportionate impact on the future of the broader Middle East, so we certainly have an interest in having Egypt as an ally of the United States and continuing to have that relationship," Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, told U.S. News earlier this month. "The outcome of the election is important, and we should look at it very closely."
(Former) Leader: Col. Muammar Qadhafi
Who's in charge: the Transitional National Council
What to watch: Will violence continue? Can the TNC establish a solid political process post-Qadhafi?
After a NATO-backed victory against ruler Col. Muammar Qadhafi, Libyan rebels-turned-leaders, the Transitional National Council, will likely find bigger challenges ahead. The top priority for Libyans now is to get the security situation under wraps following the country's civil war, which includes collecting and securing dangerous weapons from the previous regime and making sure that any remaining pro-Qadhafi forces are under control. According to Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa program director at the International Crisis Group, to ensure peace moving forward, it will also be important for the TNC to prevent any attempts of "score-settling" against members of the Qadhafi regime.
Politically, the Transitional National Council, the internationally recognized government of Libya, will have to prove to the rest of Libyans that it's capable of leading the democratic transition, which will likely include elections and the drafting of a constitution. The council, which had previously been a regional power in Benghazi, must now expand to represent the vast elements of Libya's tribal society.
Libya is beginning to recover from the conflict economically, as its oil industry revives production and as the Qadhafi regime's previously sanctioned assets are unfrozen. The TNC, since the start of the conflict, has made an effort to reach out to other nations worldwide, and although they plan to end their military involvement, NATO countries like the United States have promised to help Libya in both its economic recovery and political transition. "We're under no illusions—Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead," President Obama said Thursday from the White House Rose Garden. "But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people."