The protests in Egypt have taken over the media for the past few weeks. People have been treated with viewings of thousands in Tahrir Square calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. With Mr. Mubarak announcing that he is stepping down today, I’m not going to spend too much time talking about the implications of that particular uprising. Instead, I’d rather talk about the reasons behind the uprisings and some of the consequences that it may have in the Middle East.
The Middle East has historically been a region that was either ruled by either monarchies or a mostly corrupted form of democracy. The masses have had very little political say – if they even had any. Looking at Egypt as an example, there have been protests before (think of the 1977 Bread Riots) which have always been contained almost immediately due to the Emergency Law allowing police and government authorities to do whatever is necessary. This can include removing citizens of their constitutional rights, in times the government deems an emergency. Keep this factor of a lack of political power wielded by the common person in mind.
Another major factor has been the rapid economic growth that the Middle East has been experiencing in the last several decades. Egypt currently has a 4.7% growth rate – which is its historical average for the last 20 years. Tunisia (another country that has experienced major revolts lately) has a 3% growth rate, which isn’t terrible considering the size and location of Tunisia.
Other factors that are much harder to quantify include corruption and censorship. However, the Economist has created an index called “The Shoe Thrower’s Index” which judges the amount of unrest in Middle Eastern countries. According to this chart, Yemen and Libya have the most unrest, while Tunisia has a relatively small amount. It’s no secret anymore that the uprising in Tunisia helped to spark the uprising in Egypt. Could these two successful protests lead to more uncertainty and political upheaval in the Middle East? It’s certainly something to be wary of if you rely in this region economically – which most all of us do due to the oil production coming from the area.