"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the constitution changed to allow multi-candidate presidential elections in September, making a surprise reversal Saturday that could mean he will face a challenger for the first time since taking power in 1981.
"It was the first significant move toward political reform in decades in Egypt, a powerhouse in the Arab world that has had one-party rule for more than half a century.
"The announcement came amid increasing calls for political reform from the domestic opposition and from the United States and after historic Iraqi and Palestinian elections that brought a taste of democracy to the region."
- The Afghan Presidential election.
- The Iraqi election, with huge turnout followed by parliamentary bickering of a familiar, democratic sort.
- The Palestinian balloting, with a real opposition, a consensus outcome, followed by parliamentary-style infighting about the cabinet, in which the reformers won a partial victory.
- The Lebanese outpouring against Syrian occupation after Rafiq Hariri's murder, and Syrian indications it may relocate its troops or withdraw.
- Elections of a sort in Saudi Arabia.
- Now Mubarak announces a real presidential election rather than an up-down vote on a hand-picked candidate.
Not a Prague Spring, a Berlin wall, or 1848, perhaps, but interesting nevertheless. Of course, it has nothing to do with US policy. All the credit goes to Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan.