For Good or Ill, Change Is Coming to Egypt and Saudi Arabia Soon

(Economist-UK) The fate of the Arab world's two most important states lies in the hands of ageing autocrats. Hosni Mubarak, 82, who has ruled Egypt since 1981, is widely reported to be grievously ill. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is reckoned to be 86. Decades of repression have ensured that the opposition is quiescent in Egypt and virtually inaudible in Saudi Arabia. But they have also made these countries vulnerable to violent disruption. Transition in autocracies often means instability. Of the Arab League's 22 members, not a single one is a stable and fully fledged democracy. It would be naive to urge or expect either country to become a full-blooded democracy in a trice. Each could descend into chaos, winding up with a fundamentalist version of Islamist rule that would make the present regimes look cuddly by comparison. Many Egyptians fear that the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood would never relinquish power once they had won it at the ballot box. Sensible Saudis know that those who sympathize with their compatriot Osama bin Laden would impose an incomparably nastier regime than the present one, if given the freedom to do so.

2010-07-20 07:51:38

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