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Could Egypt follow Tunisia?

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Investors are often among the most sober of political analysts — after all, their single interest is in finding the safest and most profitable places to put their money and right now, Egypt does not look like such a location.

Reuters reports, “Cairo’s stock index tumbled to an 11-week low on Wednesday on fears of a contagion from the unrest that toppled Tunisia’s president and further volatility is expected as investors eye Egypt’s 2011 presidential election.”

At the same time, analysts say that the greater political freedom enjoyed by opposition groups in Egypt — relative to their Tunisian counterparts — serves as a pressure valve that can release political tension without undermining the Mubarak regime.

Even so, The Guardian now reports:

The Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei has warned of a “Tunisia-style explosion” in his country as self-immolation protests proliferated and anti-government activists announced plans for a nationwide “day of anger” next week.

But the former UN nuclear weapons chief stopped short of calling on his supporters to take to the streets, prompting scathing criticism from opposition campaigners who believe ElBaradei is squandering a rare opportunity to bring an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of autocratic rule.

Today Ahmed Hashem el-Sayed, 25, from the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, died in hospital after setting himself alight on the roof of his home. It was the latest in a series of self-immolation incidents that have spread through Egypt over the past two days, after the Tunisian vegetable trader Muhammad Bouazizi’s self-immolation provided the catalyst for the toppling of his country’s president last week.

“What has transpired in Tunisia is no surprise and should be very instructive both for the political elite in Egypt and those in the west that back dictatorships,” ElBaradei told the Guardian. “Suppression does not equal stability, and anybody who thinks that the existence of authoritarian regimes is the best way to maintain calm is deluding themselves.”

Within hours of Elbaradei refusing to throw his weight behind street protests as he told The Guardian “I would like to use the means available from within the system to effect change, such as the petition we are gathering demanding political reform,” he expressed a different sentiment on Twitter: “Fully support call 4 peaceful demonstrations vs. repression & corruption. When our demands for change fall on deaf ears what options remain?”

Swiftly and sarcastically, Demagh MAK in Cairo responded: “@ElBaradei Are u going to join us in the streets or you just supporting on twitter #Egypt #Jan25?”

Not withstanding pro forma expressions of support for “democratic reform,” it seems unlikely the Obama administration would welcome the prospect of democracy in Egypt.

When President Obama addressed the Muslim world from Cairo in 2009 he did so without a murmur of criticism directed at his dictator host, Hosni Mubarak. If Mubarak was to fall from power or fail to successfully pass the presidency to him son Gamal, the inevitable result would be an Egyptian government in which the Muslim Brotherhood would wield significant power — a prospect that both Washington and Israel fear.

Paul Woodward - War in Context

Paul Woodward - War in Context

Paul Woodward describes himself by nature if not profession, as a bricoleur. A dictionary of obscure words defines a bricoleur as “someone who continually invents his own strategies for comprehending reality.” Woodward has at various times been an editor, designer, software knowledge architect, and Buddhist monk, while living in England, France, India, and for the last twenty years the United States. He currently lives frugally in the Southern Appalachians with his wife, Monica, two cats and a dog Woodward maintains the popular website/blog, War in Context (http://warincontext.org), which "from its inception, has been an effort to apply critical intelligence in an arena where political judgment has repeatedly been twisted by blind emotions. It presupposes that a world out of balance will inevitably be a world in conflict."

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