In a declaration of profound importance, President Husni Mubarak of Egypt has announced that there will be open, direct and contested presidential elections in the country in September.
Previously, President Mubarak has been election four times in a process having very little to do with real democracy.
But with a possible fifth term coming up, pressures – also in public – for change towards a real election have been increasing visible.
It’s not difficult to see that this has been inspired both by elections in Palestine and Iraq and by the public pressure on Egypt from US President Bush. Twice in the last month or so President Bush has called on Egypt to move towards more of democracy.
It remains to be seen what the details will look like. We are unlikely to see an entirely smooth process towards a fully democratic system.
But the genie is out of the bottle, change is the order of the day, democracy can not be avoided and the region is truly changing. It should not be forgotten that Egypt is not only the most populated but historically probably the most significant of all the Arab countries.
So, we are talking about changes of momenteous importance. And not even the most fervent Bush-bashers can avoid giving at the least some credit for all of this to him.