Egypt Uprising Could Spur Copycats In North Africa
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Demands for political reform and regime change are sweeping through the Middle East and across North Africa. And we're going to focus today on what's happening in North Africa.
J. Scott Carpenter is a former coordinator for the State Department's Broader Middle East and North African Initiatives. I asked him which country has combustible conditions most similar to Egypt and Tunisia.
Mr. J. SCOTT CARPENTER (Former Coordinator, Broader Middle East and North Africa initiatives): My attention falls on Algeria as being the most likely to experience serious political and civil disruption, in part because you have all of the same social pathologies and economic pathologies that existed in both countries in spades.
They have a much larger youth bulge. They have a less dynamic economy than either Egypt or Tunisia. They have a very rigid political system. They've been through already a lost decade that began in 1992. But there are also factors that militate against it.
BLOCK: And what would those factors be that would tip in the opposite direction?
Mr. CARPENTER: Well, for one, you have a military that is very much part of the regime. And it has demonstrated in the past and repeatedly that it is willing to use force against the people to maintain the regime. As I mentioned, they've already been through a horrible period of a decade where over a hundred thousand Algerians were killed in a civil war. And so the appetite for more social dislocation, I think, is a lot less.
They're a lot more conservative in Algeria, so the elites I think would be much more hesitant to allow this to get out of control. It doesn't mean it won't because the pressures are enormous.
BLOCK: And what do you make of the response so far to some stirrings of protest from the president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika?
Mr. CARPENTER: Well, I think that all leaders in the region are trying to find ways to attenuate these pressures. The question here is whether a promise lifting of a 19-year-old emergency law is going to cut it amongst those who just can't find any jobs after graduating from college. Those frustrations build up.
BLOCK: Let's talk a bit about Algeria's neighbors to the west, Morocco, first of all - a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and a king, King Mohammed VI. What do you make of the climate for change, if any, in Morocco?
Mr. CARPENTER: Well, Morocco has been undertaking a very long, slow process of political and economic reform. The king is a very revered figure in Morocco. It helps to be the custodian of the faithful, so a leader of the religious establishment in Morocco. Morocco has also watched with fear and trepidation what took place in Algeria over time, so that's been a reinforcing element for stability there.
I do think that the king is under continuous pressure to yield more powers to the parliament. The parliament is the weakest of any of the parliaments in the monarchies around the region. And I think that if they don't respond soon to allow real - the parliament to have a real impact on reflecting popular dissatisfaction, then what we've seen elsewhere could begin to impact the kingdom of Morocco. But right now, I don't see that exploding in the same way as it might elsewhere.
BLOCK: Let's move on to Libya, which is between Egypt and Tunisia, which have seen these two revolutions now. Any chances that there would be anything similar happening in that country, which has been ruled by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi since 1969?
Mr. CARPENTER: Well, of all the countries in North Africa, I would have to say personally it's the one I would most like to see freedom come. But I think there also, there are some factors against broad levels of protests and social dislocation. One is that the Internet and other means of communication are not very well-developed in Libya at the moment. You don't have a lot of international news coverage there.
So I think you'll see pockets of resistance against the regime, primarily in Bengasi, which has been a seat of resistance to Gadhafi in the past. But it's unlikely that there's a broad revolution. But again, in these circumstances where these forces have been unleashed, it's uncomfortable to make very strong predictions.
J. Scott Carpenter, thanks very much for talking with us.
Mr. CARPENTER: Thank you.
BLOCK: J. Scott Carpenter is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. We reached him in Tunis.
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