The ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after 18 days of mass protests may spark similar unrest in other countries with Islamist forces hoping to make gains, West Asia experts said Saturday. While one of them thought that Egypt's shift from authoritarian rule to democracy might prove chaotic, there were warnings of a possible rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the best organised opposition group with a solid network across the country.
For now, however, the Egyptian military, which is conservative, was in command, said A.K. Mohapatra from the Centre for West Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here.
"The military council is in the forefront, earlier it was behind the scene," Mohapatra said. "The military is part and parcel of the system. "Under its (military) supervision, there could be fresh elections."
But he warned that the post-Mubarak era "is likely to be chaotic" as all other parties apart from the ruling National Democratic Party were almost non-existent.
Egypt scripted history Friday after Mubarak, one of the longest serving rulers in the Arab world, quit following growing domestic protests as well as American pressure that ended 30 long years of his rule. It followed the earlier flight from Tunisia of its long-time leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali amid varying degrees of unrest in Yemen, Libya, Jordan and Algeria.
In all these countries, the main force behind the voices for change have been the ordinary folks as opposed to organised groups, partly encouraged by the internet and social networking sites.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Mohapatra said, was present in civil society associations and its accessibility to the grassroot level was solid. "It's Islamisation from below. (Its objective is) to Islamise the society and at the appropriate time capture political power." But the experts noted that the Muslim Brotherhood -- which was as much taken aback initially by the Egyptian protests as most others were -- was today a weakened force.
Javed Ahmed Khan at the Centre for West Asian Studies at the Jamia Milia Islamia said: "The big question in Egypt is: who will be in control now? There is a feeling that the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist forces should not come (to power)," he said, quickly adding it was "an unpredictable situation".
Khan said that Islamist forces, which have taken deep roots in recent years in the Middle East, were "watching" the developments in Egypt and it needed to be seen if the Egyptian fire would spread.
"Looks like a bit of trend - a wave of democracy," added Prakash C. Jain at the Centre for West Asian Studies, also at the JNU.
Jain said poverty and growing inequality mainly triggered the revolution in Egypt although a large number of those who took part in the anti-Mubarak protests were from the educated middle class hungry for freedom.
"The new set up must be sensitive to these issues," he said. "Some other countries are apprehensive."