Today, protesters are yet again in downtown Cairo protesting the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Protests are expected to be larger today than ever before, and specifically aim to overthrow Mubarak.
But how did it get to this point? It was all triggered by the revolution in Tunisia.
Egypt shares several similarities with Tunisia, where riots over unemployment, food prices, and regime corruption resulted in a revolution earlier this month.
President Mubarak has ruled for nearly 30 years. The country has been in a state of emergency since 1967, which gives its government the power to censor its public, detain without reason, and violate constitutional rights. So the presidency, and all manifestations of its power, notably the country’s police force, have free reign. The police are known for their brutal conduct.
For an example of that brutality, here’s a video of a protester being shot in the head by police forces (via the Guardian); WARNING EXTREMELY GRAPHIC:
The government has effectively shut down online communication in the country. There are reports the government also is limiting cell phone usage, including text messaging, in a bid to disrupt protest organisers.
Egypt is currently experiencing high levels of food price inflation, with prices rising 17.1% year-over-year in December, and 17.2% year-over-year in November. The reported 2010 unemployment rate in Egypt is 9.4%, but it is likely much higher.
This is some video of what the protests look like today, from the AP (via the Guardian):
The potential political outcomes of the protest movement are varied. There is a clear potential leader back in the country in former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who has pledged his willingness to lead an interim government. ElBaradei participated in protests Friday, has gained backing from opposition groups, and has asked for Hosni Mubarak to resign.
The Muslim Brotherhood is likely the largest political force in the country, and will have a key part to play in what happens next.
There are no guarantees the government does fall. The U.S. has been non-committal on how it would like this movement to play out. Egypt’s police and military force are far stronger and more committed than those in Tunisia were.
But the size of the movement, its range throughout the country, and general, cross-religious and class support, seem to suggest there will be some sort of dramatic change in the way Egypt is governed as a result.
The financial implications of the current instability loom large. Lots of European and American companies trade with Egypt, though it isn’t exactly a key partner. Suez, and the canal that is a key global choke point for oil shipments, could come into play. At the moment, an attack on Suez doesn’t seem likely, but a work stoppage could occur.
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