Ripples from the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunsian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali have spread to other countries in the region, including Jordan and Algeria.
Mubarak, who was in power for 30 years, finally gave in after weeks of protests and stepped down from the presidency, handing power to an interim military government on Friday.
The revolution has not only affected him politically. On Friday, Swiss authorities announced they were freezing assets belonging to Mubarak and his family, pressuring the UK to do the same. Mubarak is thought to have a personal fortune of US$70 billion stashed across various bank accounts and property holdings all over the world.
That the people of one of the Middle East’s largest, oldest and most populated countries could not only overthrow but seek justice against a 30 year autocracy has sparked a wave of political dissent in the region.
Prior to Mubarak’s departure, several thousand demonstrators clashed with police in Algiers after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ordered a ban on protests. 400 were arrested, and then later released, while five people have been reported killed in the protests since they started in January.
Yesterday, the Algerian government shut down the internet and deployed 30,000 riot police – paralleling Mubarak’s early reaction to the protests in Egypt.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad did the opposite, unblocking access to the social media websites Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and Youtube in an effort to mellow rising discontent, as well as offering US$400 million in fuel subsidies to the poor. Libyian President Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi has earnestly launched a house-building scheme.
In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as announced he will not stand for a third term and is reportedly to be desperately trying to combat the city’s electricity outages with the installation of three giant generators.
King Abdullah of Jordan sacked the country’s government late last month in a bid to head off a repeat of the Egyptian uprising, announcing a deal with the political opposition sanctioning political and economic reform.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported one senior western official as saying “there has been an awakening of political awareness among the young who have been waiting for solutions that have never come and are not really in the menu now. They are saying: ‘Why should we carry on like this?’”