'Tunisian protests serve as red flag for Arab autocracies'

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Tucson (Arizona, US), Jan 16 (ANI): The recent Tunisian protests that forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's to flee the country serve as a red flag for other Arab autocracies like Egypt, sending out a strong message that maintaining stability through suppression would not be tolerated, analysts say.

After Tunisia President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday, protesters in Cairo chanted, "Ben Ali, tell Mubarak a plane is waiting for him, too!"

"Tunisia is a warning for the Egyptian regime. It's a warning, and any rational regime would take action to address it. But I don't think Egypt has any strategy for addressing it," the Christian Science Monitor quoted Diaa Rashwan, an analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, as saying.

Yesterday, protestors had also gathered at the Tunisian Embassy in Zamalek, Egypt chanting slogans against Ben Ali, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, and warning each that their day of reckoning was coming close.

"Down, down with Hosni Mubarak!" some chanted.Ben Ali, you fraud! Mubarak, you fraud! Qaddafi, you fraud!" others shouted.

People in Algeria and Jordan, which are experiencing unrest over food and fuel prices, appear to have taken a lesson from this incident.

The protests in the country began several weeks ago following the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old who worked as a fruit and vegetable vendor despite being a university graduate. He set himself on fire in a city square in December when the police seized his cart and mistreated him, the paper said.

Dismissing similar protests earlier and branding them as "terrorists," Ben Ali had begun offering concessions on January 10. He promised to create 300,000 jobs by the end of next year, but offered few details and failed to address the issues people are most angry about.

Economist Lahsen Achy at the Carnegie Mid­dle East Center in Bei­rut, Leb­anon, said: "The fact that [the protests] lasted is a strong signal that Tunisians are suffering from the impact of these policies and that they have aspirations. They know what they want and are persistent in their demands for change. The type of response the people are expecting should be institutional and political," not just promising a certain number of jobs.

After Ben Ali fled the country after being in office for over 23 years, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced he was taking over as interim President, and promised that fresh elections would be held within six months. (ANI)

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