Feb 3, 2011 9:20 PM by Danielle Lerner

Unrest in Egypt takes center stage at Cal Poly forum

The conflict in Egypt took center stage at Cal Poly Thursday. More than 100 people packed the Chumash Auditorium to discuss what is happening in Egypt now, and what it could mean for the region's future.

The violence may seem a world away but it still hits home for people at Cal Poly.

"I have a cousin who's studying abroad in Cairo right now," said Lindsey Constantino, a Cal Poly student. "Now that people are getting wounded and killed daily I'm very, very worried and scared."

The chaos in Cairo was the topic of a public forum on the Cal Poly campus Thursday, as a panel of professors discussed the issues surrounding the unrest.

"What we're witnessing in Egypt is really just the people who have lived under essentially a dictatorship for the last 30 years, finally reaching a point of frustration, of anger, of being fed up," said Anika Leithner, who teaches Political Science at Cal Poly.

Leithner says Mubarak's decision to step down before September could hinge on where the military directs its support. If Mubarak does step down, Leithner warns the situation in Egypt could get worse before it gets better.

"That's when all the different factions and parties and organizations will come out and fight with each other, trying to fill that power vacuum," she said.

As for what happens if Mubarak carries out the rest of his term? Leithner says the next regime in power could resemble the current one.

"It gives him a chance to essentially put his ducks in a row, to make sure that the future of the Egyptian government is relatively stable," said Leithner.

Leithner and other professors on the panel say it is still too early to tell if Egyptians will want a democracy, or a more Islamic government should Mubarak step down. Still they agree that should become more apparent as this movement progresses.

Meanwhile the Obama Administration is walking a diplomatic tight rope in its response to the situation in Egypt. The country is a key ally for the U.S. in the Arab world. Analysts say the administration should not choose sides because it needs to keep its relationship with Egypt, regardless of who is in power. Still as tensions continue to rise, the White House has suggested President Mubarak's planned transition in September is not soon enough.


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