By Jade Lamb, staff editor The Economist loves a good graph. In the past week’s issue, it put together a table showing the results of its ad hoc “Shoe-Thrower’s Index,” which measures the likelihood of unrest in Arab countries. Yemen comes out far ahead, rating nearly 90 on the hundred-point scale; its closest competitor, Libya, comes in around 70. Confirming the Economist’s place as a leader in current events reporting, popular protests in Yemen have already started.
Why was the Economist’s index so prescient? The measures it includes are share of population under 25, number of years the government has been in power, corruption, lack-of-democracy, GDP per capita, censorship, and absolute number of people younger than 25. In essence, the index measures two categories: whether people have cause to protest, and whether the country has a protest-inclined (i.e. young) population. Yemen, with a government 32 years in power and a median age of 18, fits the bill on both counts.
Yemen’s protests have elicited a promise from President Saleh not to run again in 2013, but 2013 is a long way off. Protests have already turned violent. President Saleh’s concessions might be a gambit to appease protestors early on and minimize the damage to his presidency and the country. Perhaps, however, Arab leaders see the upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt as a genuine wave of change and don’t want to be left behind. Hope reigns eternal.