With protesters still in the streets of Cairo and newly appointed government officials meeting with some opposition leaders, Egypt faces an uncertain future. The outcome will depend largely on the course charted by a transitional government.
Many other countries have been down the path Egypt finds itself on. A popular uprising undermines the authority of a long-standing regime and a period of chaos ensues. Transitional governments often take control and their success at ushering in change varies depending on a multitude of factors.
"In many of these cases, if the military splits or goes against the ruler and helps to bring in some transition with popular support, it still may take a cycle or more to get to an actual democratic regime or to accomplish real change," said Georgia State University political science professor Jennifer McCoy, citing past transitions in Latin American, Eastern Europe and the Philippines.
There is no guaranteed route to success, McCoy said, and often, while there may be some wholesale changes, the people in positions of authority remain at the top in transitional governments.
“In a case where there is no clear leader or leading group such as in Egypt today that spurred the change, it’s very difficult to predict where it’s going to go."
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