Mubarak's gone, and his widely disliked pinch-hitter PM is out the door too. But Egypt's troubles are far from over. This weekend, protesters in Cairo and Alexandria raided a number of secret police facilities and found evidence that the state has been torturing people, rigging elections, and monitoring phone calls between private citizens.
Reports show that when demonstrators broke into the secret police offices, they found a number of torture devices--one was memorably described as "a cube-like frame made of rods and sticks" with "an electricity charger attached"--and transcriptions of phone conversations between professors and political activists. There were also detailed breakdowns of how the state fixed the vote in last year's parliamentary elections--"exact plans telling how many votes will go to each candidate in every district in the country," according to one witness.
And The Wall Street Journal reports that activists found, and will distribute, "a treasure trove" of incriminating documents and data about Mubarak's toppled government. Scanned versions of some of these documents are already going up on Facebook.
The secret police was already a feared and hated force among the Egyptian opposition, and these revelations haven't served to make things any more stable. Nor has another recent development: On Sunday, hundreds of plainclothes men, apparently counterrevolutionary forces, attacked a crowd of Cairo demonstrators with knives, swords, and gasoline bombs. The Australian news service ABC News says this is "the first time since the fall of Mr Mubarak last month that there have been reports of a violent crackdown on protesters."
It all adds up to a lot of headaches for newly appointed Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, a Tahrir Square protester and former professor who's currently trying to assemble a cabinet the revolutionary forces will deem acceptable. Sharaf has tapped Nabil Elaraby, whom The New York Times describes as "a respected former United Nations ambassador and former judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague," to be foreign minister. And he's appointed Mansour el-Essawy, a politician with a reputation for integrity, as minister of the interior.
The weekend's developments make it clear that Egypt has still only taken initial steps toward becoming a free and stable society--and though the ever-roaming public eye may already have moved on to Libya, as Robert Kagan and Michele Dunn argue in The Washington Post today, Egypt's importance in the region is hard to overstate. "If Egypt can make the transition to democracy, it will lead the way to a new era for the Arab world," the authors write. "If Cairo falls back to dictatorship of one variety or another, it is unlikely the rest of the region will move on without it." They go on to list a number of policies the United States can adopt--like stepping up private investment, channeling more economic aid to Egypt, and forgiving the country's debts to the U.S.--that would increase the chances of a successful transition.