"Mr Mubarak ruled for 30 years, suppressing dissent and protest, and jailing opponents. US President Barack Obama said that Egypt must now move to civilian and democratic rule "
- BBC Report[Link]
The current bout of overthrowing dictators around the world reminds me of how democracy was brought to S. Korea and Indonesia during the Asian crisis. Dictators and strongmen hang on to power by suppressing opponents and tweaking the election system so that those who oppose them cannot get elected. Unhappiness festers but the country carry on with the system so long as the economy is okay. Then some kind of serious economic problems emerge and galvanise the people to move into the streets. In Egypt it was explained that the high fertility has resulted in a large population of young who cannot accept the authoritarian govt and the Internet + social media help to fuel the current unrest.
But do you know what was the trigger given these people hate Mubarak so much they can't wait to get him out? Some people have called this the Bernanke Revolution. In Egypt, household spend 60% or more on food. When Bernanke implemented his QE2 in Aug 2010, food prices went through the roof
Source : Link
When people suffer economic pain under authoritarian govt, they quickly point to the govt which controls a vast amount of the nation's resources. Especially so in countries with big income gaps where wealth is unequally divided - very often correlated how closely linked people or businesses are to the govt. In Egypt's case, the rising food prices caused much of the economic pain among the people. They are not going to be bothered with who or what actually caused the rise in food prices. They hate Mubarak so he must go....they blame his 3-decade rule for widespread poverty. In a democracy, with freedom of press and information, governments have to make continuous adjustments and be sensitive to the people's demand. When a crisis occur, it can result in a change of govt but seldom a big change in the political system.
History shows that systems that depend on repression often see a build-up of dissatisfaction with govt that result in abrupt sometimes violent changes. When you need to use some segment of society to repress another, you have to reward people for loyalty so they are willing to carry out the injustice for you. There is the dirty work of spying, detaining opponents without trial or on trump up charges or thinking up policies that serve your interests. After a few decades, you find that intelligent people with principles don't want to have anything to do with you and you need to pay people more and more to get people to join you. You end up recruiting from a narrower and narrower base to as you go along because you can trust only those who benefitted the most from your repressive rule and ultimately these are people linked to your govt who have shown loyalty to you and your system rather than pure competence in serving the needs of the people. The common man whose lot has not improved will find it harder and harder to accept that you need to give out so much benefits just to hold up a system from which they derive little benefit. At some point, they will just say enough is enough...and you or your system will have to go.