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February 01, 2011

Massive Turnout For Egyptian Protests. Is Jordan Next?

When the people are no longer afraid of an authoritarian government, that government is not long for the world.

A massive and highly expectant crowd of pro-democracy demonstrators converged on this capital city's central plaza Tuesday, energized by the belief that their week-old movement is on the verge of ousting President Hosni Mubarak.

By late afternoon, hundreds of thousands of cheering people packed every inch of Tahrir Square, with supporters still streaming in from every direction and filling the surrounding broad avenues of downtown. Similar protests were underway in cities across Egypt.

Mubarak has announced that he wants to open negotiations with the opposition about reforms but it seems like they are really only interested in accepting his surrender. The only question is likely whether he is going to be arrested or shipped out of the country with his family and some stolen money. I hear Jeddah is lovely this time of year.

But demonstrators on Tuesday were already looking past Mubarak, saying they would not accept any of his inner circle - including Suleiman - as their new leader. They are instead calling for the creation of a transitional government, followed soon after by elections.

Such a scenario would have been virtually inconceivable before last Tuesday, when the demonstrations began, but is now seen by protesters as inevitable.

"Even if I have to die tomorrow, I have lived today as a free man," said Khalid el-Hosary, 39, who said he hails from the same home town as the president. "Mubarak's not gone yet, but we're the ones who are directing events, not him. These people all around us are the ones who are going to determine the future of the Middle East."

Let's hope Mr. el-Hosary's freedom survives the aftermath of this revolution. Remember, it isn't always the ones who topple the government who wind up in control after the original government is gone. There's usually a pretty nasty group waiting in the wings to knock off the happy talking reformers and re-institute tyranny, just with another name.

As for what comes next...Egypt is a stew of beliefs and attitudes that seems to defy efforts to get a handle on it. That's really not to surprising considering the nature of the government and how it choked off any opposition groups for generations. When people can't express their views or have them tested in the market place of ideas, they can be warped and contradictory. It's simply going to take time for Egyptians to sort out what kind of politics and society they want.

Added: US pushes Mubarak a little further under the bus.

US Ambassador in Cairo Margaret Scobey spoke on the phone today with Mohamed ElBaradei

Meanwhile...King Abdullah of Jordan can smell what's cooking in Cairo all the way back in Amman.

Jordan's King Abdullah II fired his government Tuesday in the wake of street protests and asked an ex-prime minister to form a new Cabinet, ordering him to launch immediate political reforms.

The dismissal follows several large protests across Jordan— inspired by similar demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt — calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, who is blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices and slowed political reforms.

...The king also stressed that economic reform was a "necessity to provide a better life for our people, but we won't be able to attain that without real political reforms, which must increase popular participation in the decision-making."

He asked al-Bakhit for a "comprehensive assessment ... to correct the mistakes of the past." He did not elaborate. The statement said Abdullah also demanded an "immediate revision" of laws governing politics and public freedoms.

Jordan isn't Egypt but clearly people want more. Abdullah's moves though may be too late, too late to hold back the tide sweeping the Mideast. Remember, about 1/3 of Jordan's population is Palestinian and there has been, unpleasantness there before.

Want more? Some Syrian opposition groups are calling for protests this weekend. I hope this isn't some sort of false flag operation by the Syrian security forces to smoke out would-be opponents because Syria doesn't play when it comes to this stuff.

Interesting times, to say the least.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:53 AM

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