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In Egypt, no news is very good news

After a blood-spattered December and a more deadly January, an unexciting February arrived leading Egypt into a March respite. Though Egyptians are basking in this short but peaceful phase, they are awaiting in anticipation the next few months leading up to June when many pivotal historic events will take place.

December and January were packed with clashes and standoffs, causing hundreds of fatalities. Then came February; things quieted down somewhat. Simultaneously, Egyptians saw the inauguration of the parliament, and all that came with it; the NGO kafuffle with the US; and the ongoing tug-of-war between the extreme Islamists and the rest of Egypt.

But Egypt enjoyed this month of solid peace. Someone said, "Six weeks of no news translates to very good news." I agree. Things have been calm and uneventful, and uneventful is good these days. But again this is the calm before the next storm. Many anticipated events will take place soon; each will undoubtedly create its own surprises.

First and foremost, Mubarak's trial ended, the verdict to be announced in June. Whatever the verdict may be, some group will readily criticize it, belittling the judicial system and its "unjust bias." The pro-Mubaraks will denounce the harsh verdict, and the anti-Mubaraks will condemn the lenient one. Satisfaction to all will be nonexistent.

Will Egyptians then take to the streets yet again? Or will they close this page of their lives and move on? This remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the newly elected parliament is enjoying its moment in the limelight. Many Egyptians sat through hours on end watching the inaugural session on January 23; this interest has subsided somewhat, but the parliament remains a constant source of attention, chatter, and ridicule. From the MP who recited the call for prayers amidst session to the one who considered teaching the English language to be a foreign conspiracy, the parliament continues to baffle everyone.

Still, Egyptians are watching the parliament closely and hoping that it will indeed play the prominent role they expect -- especially since the parliament will also participate in the writing of the constitution, the next noteworthy event in the lives of Egyptians.

Soon the 100-member committee entrusted with the task of writing the constitution will be established, from members of the parliament and the society in general. And since many parliament members are religiously inclined, Egyptians are worried that their input may sway Egypt into becoming more rigidly Islamic than it already is.

Lastly, the presidential elections schedule has been announced. By the end of June an Egyptian president will be elected. It has not been decided which will go first, the constitution or the election, but obviously both are vital to Egypt’s future.

The process, the election itself, the predictions, the results, and everything in between will resurrect anxiety and worry. Egyptians have stopped taking anything lightly, and the presidential race is no laughing matter -- they will find fault, ask for transparency, deem actions unsuitable, and protest if necessary.

How many presidential hopefuls are there? At this point, the number is uncountable; everyone has suddenly realized that the post is up for grabs, and presidential candidates are coming from everywhere. From TV hosts, ex-ministers and officials, and retired army officers to fundamentalists, businessmen, and activists, everyone is eyeing the job; young and old are interested; even a woman, who has absolutely no chance of winning, has decided to run for presidency.

Every one of these hopefuls believes that he (and she) has the ability to improve the status quo that Egypt seems to have suffered from for decades. It will take severe haggling to weed out the unfit and shortlist the candidates to a handful of appropriate candidates.

But this president, to be elected in less than 100 days, will face one of the thorniest jobs in the history of modern Egypt: the job of making a difference. Egyptians have lost their acceptance of mediocre performances, and they want change and progress immediately.

If that president can't deliver improvements instantly, he will be met with a disgruntled following. He will have to act speedily and proficiently to satisfy some, only some, of the Egyptians, His only hope is that this satisfaction will rub off on others because this is the most common way Egyptians get their news—through hearsay and word of mouth.

The next few months are key to Egypt's future. And June, in particular, has too many events to pass unnoticed -- it will be most definitely a memorable month in Egypt’s history.

Dr. Azza Sedky, a communications professor at Capilano University, has spent the winter in Cairo. She often posts on her blog Egypt.

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