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Following Tunisia's example, unrest spreads throughout the Arab world.
Political reform, though, moves slowly in Egypt.
Opposition groups frequently criticize Egypt’s stringent electoral laws – many of which preserve the status quo by hampering competition before challengers even enter the ring.
An election for Egypt’s lower house of parliament late last year was marred by numerous allegations of vote-tampering and by widespread violence at the polls – including intimidation by the country’s vast security services.
Years of relative peace and stability in Egypt – what Mubarak’s regime often showcases as its success – comes partially at the cost of basic civil liberties, say local human rights groups.
Egyptians have been living under a draconian emergency law almost continuously since 1981, when Mubarak took office.
Presidential elections in Egypt are scheduled for this September, amid growing speculation over the health of 82-year-old Mubarak, who has never named a successor in his three decades of rule.
Many in Egypt believe Mubarak’s son Gamal is being groomed for the top post.
But with a reinvigorated opposition movement, in light of what some are already calling the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in Tunisia, analysts say that Egypt will have to introduce at least some basic reforms before the country’s upcoming election.
“The main lesson here is that you can’t always anticipate revolutions. Autocracies may seem stable, but they aren’t,” said Hamid, the Brookings researcher. “If you talked to any Middle East analyst five weeks ago and told them that Tunisia would fall in a month, they would have laughed. Though a similar scenario may seem unlikely now in countries like Algeria and Egypt, it’s no longer unlikely.”