By extending emergency laws that were put in place after Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by Islamist extremists, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has brought the curtain down on a political farce that he had been staging at the behest of President Bush.

Egypt is in dire need of the reform that Mubarak promised last autumn during his campaign for a fifth six-year presidential term. His promise to lift draconian laws suppressing civil liberties was to be the cornerstone of a liberalisation policy meant to placate Bush. Sadly, it now appears that intervening events have cooled President Bush’s ardour for liberalisation in Arab countries governed by clients of the US. The relative success of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in last winter’s tightly controlled parliamentary election and the outright victory of Hamas seemed to shock Bush and his advisers. Suddenly they noticed that years of autocratic rule in much of the Arab world have emptied the political playing field of all serious competitors save the established elites and their Islamist foes. Egypt desperately needs the freedoms Bush is allowing Mubarak to suppress. It is the suppression of freedom that reduces the chances for Egyptian liberals to challenge both the repressive order of the established system and the reactionary appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood. — The Boston Globe