Observing the patterns of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, we have developed the following phases to describe how protests spread and a beleaguered regime responds.
1. Enabling environment – creates conditions for potential unrest (commodity price change, corruption, aggressive regime, unfair regime, etc)
2. Catalytic reaction – isolated (e.g. set fire to a person, kill child, etc)
3. Catalytic response – isolated (e.g. shoot mourners at funeral)
4. Catalytic spread – map across isolated incidents (from small incident, spreads slightly – usually because the new people being killed live in different towns)
5. System response – system clamps down – before it has spread, the state gets panicked and clamps down on 'everything' before the spread has properly taken hold
6. Accelerated reactions – now more places, repeated patterns
7. Upgraded system response – harder, set of classic tactics (switch off Internet & mobile phones, bring in military)
8. Mass concentrated reaction – mass events, close down major areas of social, political, industrial activity. The upgraded system response serves to annoy everyone, even though the actions are only intended to affect a small group. Now everything scales up and concentrates (1M march through Cairo, etc).
9. Weak palliative response – failing regime makes an attempt (or several) to reduce the pressure on the core (i.e. fire government, appoint new VP, say that you will leave in less than 5 years, etc)
10. Increasing mass reaction & unlikely system response – harder / impossible to stop 'everything', military action tough (well 'designed' regime changes brings the military on side, with the argument “Egyptians cannot and will not kill Egyptian women, children, mothers and daughters”). Regime therefore loses its fall-back support (which in reality, we now know, could never save them anyway, save in the harshest of circumstances).
11. Transition moment – when key point of the regime goes (agree to stand down, leave country)
12. 3-Day chaos – during this time, no one knows what is going on, reaction and system are in a holding zone
13. Transition formation – developing the state change to 'something'
14. Transition reaction – takes a while to formulate, but as Tunisia has found, a transition system does not gain automatic acceptance
15. Transition acceptance / rejection – based on the level of acceptance, can continue the reactions for regime change (at large scale, because protest movement is still in place), or begin to mellow out and regain sense of (new) normal activity