January 14 Tunis protest, left, and midnight January 26 Cairo protest, right, saying "Mubarak GAME OVER" [Reuters] 

Massive and deadly demonstrations in the Egyptian capital have called for an end to Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule.

The protests come on the heels of weeks of unrest in Tunisia, which culminated in long-time president Ben Ali's departure to Saudi Arabia.

In both Tunisia and Egypt, as well as Algeria, Jordan and several other Arab countries, protesters are asking for autocratic governments to be held accountable for high unemployment, soaring food prices, and political repression.

The US and other Western countries are strong allies of many of these Arab governments, including Egypt's. But recent protests have led many to question whether democracy and liberalisation should take precedence over security and stability.

Arab human rights and democracy advocates hope that Tunisia was the first in a series of dominos to fall, creating new hope for increased political freedom and economic advancement.

However, in Egypt and elsewhere, political observers wonder whether Islamists - in addition to liberals and leftists - will most benefit from the decline of autocratic rule.

Is Egypt the next Tunisia? And should Western governments be supporting popular protest movements?

Source: Al Jazeera