Lessons In Social Unrest

Representatives of the young anti-government protestors camped out on Cairo’s Tahrir Square could join talks between the Egyptian government and other opposition leaders on Thursday. The disparate factions on Tahrir Square have resolved their differences and have formed a delegation that includes Egyptian-born Google executive Wael Ghonim, who was recently released from custody.

Ghonim, the head of marketing for Google in the Middle East and North Africa, spent almost two weeks in custody for his role in organizing the protests. Upon his release, he gave an emotional speech honoring the protestors who lost their lives that turned him into the face of the protest movement.

Vice President Omar Suleiman, who is leading the recently formed commission on constitution reform, called on the young protest organizers to drop their demand for the ouster of the president, Hosni Mubarak. Suleiman has warned that insisting on Mubarak’s immediate resignation and continuing the protests would lead to greater chaos in the country.

Earlier this week, Suleiman announced the formation of a committee to monitor the progress of reforms. But will this be enough to satisfy the protesters?

The importance of strong governance
Street demonstrations in Cairo are likely to continue into the weekend, but the fervor appears to be subsiding. The anti-government protests, which began on January 25, have already claimed 300 lives and have left thousands of people injured. But this is not the only result of this popular uprising. There are lessons to be learned from the recent events in Egypt.

For example, Egypt has show that a popular uprising can stop short of a full-scale revolution upheaval in a country run by a strong leader. Indeed, President Mubarak’s prowess and the loyalty of his inner circle have proved instrumental in preventing a coup and an impromptu transition of power in the country.

Mubarak and ousted Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali have a lot in common.

Both overcame their humble origins to ascend to the highest echelons of political power, and both remained in office for decades. Career military officers by training, both men worked their way up to the top of the army. Both recognized Washington’s leading role in the region and fought against Islamic radicalism.

Mubarak, 82, and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, 74, both belong to the generation whose formative years coincided with the national liberation and anti-monarchy movements in the Middle East and North Africa. The overthrow of old rulers provided them with a chance to propel their political careers forward.

During their time in office, their respective countries enjoyed periods of prolonged stability. But the past few years have seen growing public discontent.

The Egyptian president has proved more resolute and cold-blooded than his Tunisian counterpart. Mubarak and his inner circle are aware that Egypt’s 80-million population, with its underlying differences, will be much harder to pull back from a bloody feud than Tunisia’s Westernized population of just 10 million.

One of the reasons why Ben Ali fled his country on January 14 was his betrayal by his political allies. Some of them sought to ride the wave of popular discontent into power, but these expectations were not met, and these former confidants of the president ended up losing all their clout, privileges and wealth.

Tunisia’s Interior Ministry has now suspended the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally and froze the bank accounts of many top-ranking members of this 2-million-strong party.

Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party, however, is carrying on, despite the recent overhaul in leadership. Many top party officials had to quit their posts at a party congress over the weekend, including Mubarak’s 47-year-old son, Gamal, once tipped as the incumbent’s heir apparent.

Complete story via RIA Novosti


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