**EGYPT’S Mubarak must learn from the troubles in Tunisia. ** After the popular uprising in Tunisia that sent the loathsome president Zine El Abedine Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia, the tumult sweeping Egypt is no surprise. Many of the same demographic and economic problems which brought down Mr Ben Ali also exist in Cairo. There is a similar disconnect between a well-heeled, privileged elite, cosseted by a ruthless authoritarian regime, and an increasingly bitter population angered by widespread official corruption, soaring food prices, a lack of basic job opportunities and torture by law enforcement agencies. Egyptians, like Tunisians and the people of many other Arab nations, are thoroughly fed up. The challenge for their 82-year-old President, Hosni Mubarak, in power for 30 years, is to adapt to the new reality that is forcefully emerging on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere.
Egyptians, as this week’s demonstrations have shown, want genuine democracy, not last year’s electoral charade. Mr Mubarak’s presidential term ends in November. He has not said whether he wants to stay on. If he is smart he will announce he intends to retire, abandon the offensive notion of trying to shoehorn Gamal into the presidency and arrange a free and fair election.Failure to do so will provide an environment in which religious extremists from the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qa’ida thrive. This would be an unmitigated disaster, with untold regional and global consequences. One crazy theocracy in Iran is more than the region needs.