Who's in charge: President Hosni Mubarak has ruled in Cairo for three decades, where an emergency law, which has been in effect for the duration of his tenure, gives him free rein to manipulate the political system. But at 82 years old, it appears pharaoh's power may be slipping. Persistent rumors of Mubarak's ill health have spurred political jockeying -- most notably between his son, Gamal, and the powerful intelligence director Omar Suleiman -- over who will fill his considerable shoes.
Warning signs: Egypt has witnessed a wave of self-immolations in recent days, as outraged citizens attempt to duplicate the popular protests caused by the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi. The third immolation came when a 25-year-old man set himself on fire on the top floor of his building in Alexandria on Jan. 18. He died from his wounds.
Earlier that same day, a 40-year-old lawyer attempted to immolate himself in Cairo after reportedly chanting slogans about rising food prices in the country. And the day before, a man lit himself on fire outside parliament while protesting against the government. Both are expected to survive. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, however, angrily dismissed suggestions that the Tunisian unrest could spread as "nonsense," complaining that those drawing the comparison were "promoting fantasies and trying to ignite the situation" -- perhaps a poor choice of words.
Other Egyptian political players sounded a different note. Presidential contender and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said that change in Egypt was "inevitable" following the events in Tunisia.
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