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2011年2月 3日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 1
EDITORIAL: Deepening Egypt crisis

Only a week ago, foreign tourists were flocking to Egypt where the winter tourist season has begun. Now, foreigners are scrambling to airports to get out of the country.

Nobody could have predicted how rapidly the situation would deteriorate in Egypt after popular anger exploded last week against the nation's autocratic regime of 30 years.

With the populace demanding democracy while President Hosni Mubarak refuses to step down, the crisis in Egypt is deepening.

Clashes between street demonstrators and security forces escalated over the weekend. According to some reports, 100 people were killed by police fire.

The government has since imposed a curfew and mobilized the military. The latter, rather than the police and security forces, is now responsible for restoring order.

After the police vanished from the streets, looting occurred in some areas. But local residents immediately organized their own militias to protect their neighborhoods.

However, if the police remain out of the picture over a protracted period, civic life is bound to collapse before long.

Schools, banks and government offices remain closed. Some cities are already beginning to be hit by food and gasoline shortages.

To stop demonstrators from communicating with one another, the government cut off the Internet and temporarily disabled mobile phone services. But the people could not be stopped.

The people have proved their power by protecting the safety of their own communities. This suggests that human ties are strong in Egyptian society. And the fact that the people are not fighting among themselves is proof that democratization has the support of a broad segment of the population.

Mubarak bears the responsibility for inviting this national crisis by having lost popular support to this extent. He should resign immediately, not wait until his presidency expires this autumn.

For Egypt to make a fresh start, it is vital that the task be entrusted to a provisional government in which all political parties are represented, and that a presidential election and a parliamentary election be called as soon as possible.

Even the United States, the staunchest supporter of the Mubarak administration, is in favor of Egypt's "transition" to a democratic regime. The Japanese government should also make its wishes quite clear.

To avert any further bloodshed and chaos, the international community must appeal to the Mubarak regime firmly and without delay.

So long as the Egyptian government refrains from suppressing pro-democracy demonstrators, the latter remain peaceable. We hope there will be no clashes in the days ahead with the military, which is now policing the streets.

The military has so far denied any use of arms against demonstrators. They must maintain this noninterference policy even if the situation becomes more urgent.

Mubarak is a former military officer, and so is Omar Suleiman, whom he named vice president last week. The democratization of Egypt spells not only Mubarak's resignation, but also an end to military rule.

The international community needs to apply pressure on both the Mubarak regime and the military. The last thing we need is the military pointing guns at the people.


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