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2011年1月31日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 28
EDITORIAL: Egyptian turmoil

Demonstrations to try to force Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down are spreading across Egypt. There have already been several casualties in confrontations between demonstrators and the security police.

In Cairo, a clash occurred near the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (Egyptian Museum), which holds the world-famous gold mask of King Tutankhamen.

We are surprised at these uprisings in a place known in Japan as a tourist destination.

But the country has been under the thumb of Mubarak's authoritarian regime for three decades. Mubarak, a former military officer, has had five consecutive terms.

Throughout that whole period, the country has been in a state of emergency, which was declared immediately after the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat, Mubarak's predecessor, in 1981. Citizens are not free to hold rallies, freedom of speech is controlled, and people who criticize the administration can be detained without an arrest warrant.

In parliamentary elections last fall, major opposition groups decided to boycott the elections halfway through the campaign because of blatant interference by the police in the electoral process.
As a result, the parliament is almost completely dominated by the ruling party.

Egypt also faces an unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, growing poverty, prices rising at nearly 20 percent a year and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. There is growing discontent at corruption among the leadership centering on the president.

In Tunisia, demonstrations led to the collapse of an authoritarian regime and sent the president into exile. A similar situation is also developing in Egypt.

The people of Egypt are facing an even worse situation than the Tunisians.

The per capita national income of Egypt, which has a population of 80 million, is only 60 percent of that of Tunisia, which has 10 million people.

Mubarak's term expires this fall.

There are rumors that he wants to hand over the presidency to his son.

However, there is strong criticism in Egypt of either the prospect of the 82-year-old president, who has had health problems, seeking re-election or of a nepotistic succession.

The Mubarak regime is at a critical juncture.

Egypt has diplomatic ties with Israel and has a friendly relationship with the United States. It also serves as a go-between for Arab nations and a mediator in the Middle East peace process.

Political turmoil in this regional power could destabilize the whole Middle East.

To prevent the situation in Egypt from getting out of control, bloodshed must be avoided at all costs. We must not have a situation in which security forces and police are aiming guns at their own people.

The only way forward is for Mubarak to announce that he will retire when his current term expires. He must declare a free and democratic election to choose the next president.

If the government uses force, Islamic terrorists will win the people's hearts.

If it treads a democratic path, it can win over Muslim moderates who support participation in elections.

We want Mubarak to go down in history as the leader who introduced democracy to Egypt, not as the dictator who suppressed it.

Japan is one of the main providers of aid to Egypt.

The Japanese government should work with Western countries to persuade the Mubarak regime to make the right choice for its country and its people.


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