Tunisia’s military saved the people’s revolution. But in other Arab countries on the brink — such as Egypt and Yemen — the armed forces are far less likely to do the same. The reactions of national militaries often determine whether a popular revolution lives or dies. And the armed forces of Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen — three countries where stunning public uprisings are challenging the existing order this week — couldn’t be more different. Among the three, Tunisia’s small, professional force stands out as the exception, not just for its quality but for its separation from an entrenched, autocratic regime. The armed forces rule Egypt
There are reports that influential businessmen and even some government officials, many close to President Mubarak, have boarded planes and left the country.
* Mohamed ElBaradei, 68, former head of the United Nations nuclear agency, returned to Egypt and said he would take part in the protest. ElBaradei was put under house arrest today.
* Tens of thousands of marchers in the capital chanted “liberty” and “change” at demonstration points across the city of 17 million, many of them intending to rally in Tahrir Square. Smoke rose from downtown as Al Jazeera said the ruling party’s offices were on fire.
* Egyptian protesters clashed with police throughout the country and into the night, defying a curfew and setting fire to some buildings, in the biggest challenge to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
* Mubarak, in his role as military leader, ordered the army to help police implement a curfew from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, state television said. The restrictions were later applied nationwide with armored vehicles and tanks in the streets.
* After nightfall, police and demonstrators fought running battles along the Corniche, the road on the east bank of the River Nile. Fires burned along the route, including a blaze in a restaurant in front of the Conrad Hotel.
* Fitch Ratings today revised the rating outlook on Egypt to “negative” from “stable.” Egypt’s benchmark EGX30 stock index plunged 11 percent on Jan. 27, the most since October 2008.
* Crude oil prices surged the most since September 2009, rising 4.8 percent
* Low wages and rising prices have sparked protests in Egypt since 2004. About 1.7 million workers engaged in 1,900 strikes and other forms of protest between 2004 and 2008, the Solidarity Center, a U.S. labor-rights group, said in a study last year.
* Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, announced additional spending of as much as 3.5 billion pounds in October to cover the country’s rising food bill, increasing the strain on a budget deficit that widened to 8.1 percent of gross domestic product in the fiscal year that ended in June. Wheat futures in Chicago, the global benchmark, have surged 74 percent in the past 12 months.
The economy in the country of 80 million people, the most populous in the Arab region, probably grew 6.2 percent in the last quarter of 2010, compared with 5.5 percent in the previous three months, according to official estimates. The government says it needs growth of about 7 percent to create enough jobs every year for a growing working-age population.
The Arab street is on fire, how far will it spread? As the Tunisian contagion catches on and violent protests sweep through Egypt and Yemen, authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are facing unexpected challenges that could rearrange the political landscape in this part of the world.
There are reports that are at least 5 dead and 900 injured in the Egyptian protests and thousands have been arrested.