Friday, January 28, 2011

Mid East Anti-Government Protests - Talk Radio to Blame?

A protestor was shot dead in Egypt.  Others set fires and rioted as President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, fled to England with his wife, daughter, and 100 pieces of luggage. 

It has been widely believed that, despite his denials, President Mubarak was preparing his son to take his place in the Presidential Palace, just as Bashar al Assad took his father's place as the President of Syria.

Dynasty-building, nepotism, and depletion of public funds by rulers' families have become the hallmark of Middle Eastern rule in recent history, which led to last week's overthrow of Tunisia's fat-cat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In Yemen, an estimated 16,000 protestors took part in one of several demonstrations around the country, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to relinquish his rule.  He has led Yemen for over thirty years, ranking him in terms of longevity with Muamar al Qaddafi and the Sultan of Oman. 

Saleh too, has appeared to be positioning his son to take his place.  He has twice run for reelection after promising that he would not.  This allowed him to stay in office until his son, Ahmed Saleh, turned 40, the constitutionally mandated age of presidential eligibility.  He also backed a recent attempt at a constitutional amendment that would have done away with the limit on presidential terms, removing any legal barrier to his remaining president for the rest of his life.

Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen are all reeling from eruptions of anti-government sentiment that until now, their rulers have managed to keep pretty well under wraps.  Egypt's Mubarak is likely to follow Tunisia's Ben Ali down the spiral sluice.  What will happen in Yemen is yet to be seen.

Protests there have so far, been peaceful, and if the government manages to restrain itself from responding violently, I expect they will taper off.  Yesterday afternoon the demonstrators set aside their signs and banners to indulge in the national pastime of chewing narcotic qat leaves.  That, and the fact that the opposition is hamstrung by internal feuding and is unable to mount a unified front to oppose him bodes well for Saleh's chances of staying in power.

Back-biting, intrigue, greed, and outrage - it's beginning to sound like the last two years of US politics.  The only difference, of course, is that when the citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen protest their villainous leadership, nobody blames their indignation on Talk Radio or the Tea Party.

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