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January 29, 2011

Political and Economic Chaos in Egypt

POLITICS - Below is a time line of the events leading up to Egypt's current state of anarchy.

January 17th

A 50-year-old man sets himself on fire outside parliament. In December a similar protester in Tunisia did the same thing and it unleashed an uprising that overthrew Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

January 18th

A 25-year-old unemployed man sets himself ablaze in the city of Alexandria. A lawyer in his 40s also sets himself on fire outside government buildings in Cairo.

January 20th

Two Egyptians injured after setting fire to themselves.

January 24th

Nobel laureate and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei says Egyptian should follow the lead set by Tunisia and overthrow the dictatorship currently running the country.

January 25th

Anti-government demonstrations bring several thousand people on to the streets across Egypt. Two demonstrators killed in Suez after clashes with police.

During the night police fire tear gas thousands of protesters in central Cairo.

January 26th

Thousands of people demonstrate in Egyptian towns, ignoring a strict ban on protests. Egyptian police continually fire tear gas at protesters.

In Cairo a protester is killed in clashes with police.

In Suez, 55 demonstrators and 15 police officers injured in clashes.

January 27th

Security forces swarm central Cairo. Hundreds of protesters clash with police in Suez and Ismailiya.

Police shoot dead a young man in the Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwayed.

The White House says the Cairo government and protesters they have an "obligation" to avoid violence. The European Union asks Egypt to respect the right to protest.

Opposition leader ElBaradei says he is ready to "lead the transition."

January 28th

In Cairo riot police use tear gas and rubber bullets on tens of thousands of protesters.

In Suez a protester is killed and in Alexandria a government building is burnt.

Thousands of arrests across Egypt as government seeks to stay in power.

Internet services go down.

Opposition leader ElBaradei joins over 2,000 people in Friday prayers in Cairo.

President Mubarak imposes a dusk-to-dawn curfew, calls on the army and declares martial law.

Britain and Germany express concern about the violence, with Britain saying the protesters had "legitimate grievances."

Protesters set fire to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party in Cairo.

January 29th (today)

Death toll rises to at least 64 people.

Curfew increased to 4 PM.

Military dispatched to quell protests in the suburbs of Cairo.

Protests outside Egyptian Embassy in Washington D.C.

Mubarak refuses calls for early elections.

Gunfire at Mubarak's presidential residence reported. More reports of "nonstop" gunfire coming from his residence.

Various Egyptian politicians resigned or removed from their positions.

Ahmed Shafiq has been named Egypt's new prime minister. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman appointed as vice president. Both men are former members of Egypt's military.

THE EGYPTIAN MIRAGE

Egypt was hailed as a success story by international financial institutions. Egypt's economy was flourishing, with annual GDP growth of 5% to 7% thanks to it being a stable haven compared to the rest of the Middle East. The Egyptian regime promised stability and stamped out opposition.

That success story however is turning into a mirage however. According to Forbes magazine Egypt's "economic situation will deteriorate further."

On Thursday, the Egyptian stock market dropped 10.5%.

If a new government came into power however it could easily rebound.

Meanwhile tourists are fleeing Egypt as quickly as they can as the violence escalates.

Its all part of a regional trend effecting Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia and other countries. Protests are springing up against authoritarian dictatorships and their local economies are part of the reason.

These protests are a tricky matter for the United States, which actively promotes democracy, but has allied itself with many of the dictatorships in the region. Jordan for example is an important American ally and the second-largest per-capita recipient of American assistance (Israel is the first).

This region wide backlash against dictatorships could end up being bad for American interests in the region, as democracies are more difficult to control/bribe compared to dictatorships.

There are fears that these protests could spread to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other economic centres of the Middle East where many poor people have seen the rise in economic power of their overlords, but have been denied the right to vote.

Democracy, complete with the accountability, popular legitimacy and peaceful resolution of conflict is the path to long-term stability in the Middle East, but such things will only happen if people first throw out the old regimes and start anew.

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