Monday, January 31, 2011

End Game for Mubarak

Most people don't make public, verifiable predictions. Everyone is an expert after the fact, and they're sure that they knew what was happening, but try to pin them down at the time and they're much more hesitant. This is the appeal of prediction markets - if you ain't betting, then you don't actually believe what you're saying.

So here's my prediction -  this is the end game for Mubarak. The army has announced that they're not willing to shoot at protesters. My guess is that Mubarak will be out within the week, probably within the next 48 hours. My estimate of the probability for this is between 0.7 and 0.8. I'm well aware that this is perhaps already late in the game and the prediction might be at the point of not being controversial, but it's my two cents anyway.

Revolutions happen in very quick succession, and the break point is always the same. 100,000 people turn up on the streets. President gives order for army to shoot. At that point, the only question is how much internal discipline the president and top commanders loyal to him have over rank and file troops.

If the army actually shoots, game over for the protesters. See Rangoon, Tienanmen Square. Unarmed protesters against live ammunition is an outcome that's not seriously in doubt. And not many people keep turning up to the streets to get mowed down by machine gun fire - the instinct for self-preservation kicks in, and the dictator stays.

If the army doesn't shoot, that's the end for the president. See the PhilippinesCzechoslovakia. When people begin to suspect that the president doesn't have the power to stop them, they start descending on wherever the president is, and he goes from radio announcements that all is well to hopping on a plane for Switzerland. .

We'll see soon how well calibrated I am.

Update: In case I end up being right and it looks like this was a gimme prediction, here's the top suggested Google news article for 'Mubarak', from 40 minutes ago:"Analyst: No Sign Egyptian President Mubarak Will Step Down". So just remember, this was posted when the outcome was at least partly unclear. If I'm wrong, well so much better for the 'Analyst'!

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