Thursday, 20 January 2011

Could Egypt follow in Tunisia's footsteps?

Could Egypt follow in Tunisia's footsteps? Could Jordan? Algeria? Libya? This is the question that has been asked repeatedly over the past few days since President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali took flight. There are parallels and likenesses between most Arab states: an ageing leadership increasingly out of touch with a young and frustrated population; lack of jobs; rising prices; absence of power sharing or real political debate; absence of the rule of law; corruption in high places.

There are, however, many differences, as much in degree as in substance. There is high level corruption in Egypt, but not to the extent of the mafia state that was Tunisia. A number of wealthy tycoons in Egypt, some in government, have made vast fortunes. But nothing compares to the stranglehold that Ben Ali and his wife's extended family had on most commercial activity. Nor does Egypt have the obsessive paranoia of Ben Ali in terms of information. The liberalisation of the media in Egypt does provide an important safety valve. Furthermore, while there are many poor, the provision of rationed goods means that no one starves.

For many in the Arab world, fear of fitna, of strife or chaos is too great for them to rebel against the state authority. This quietist attitude, helped by often repressive State security, has ensured the endurance of some very unpopular regimes.

What will Egypt do? One reaction would be to become more repressive of dissent. The alternative is to seek to defuse discontent by offering more political concessions. Or it could carry on as before, mindful of what has happened, making minor adjustments to deal with flare-ups.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

No comments:

Post a Comment