Friday, February 11, 2011

Egyptians Wonder What Mubarak Is Up To; UPDATE: Mubarak Has Stepped Down

All eyes are on Egypt and no one apparently knows where Mubarak is or who exactly is in charge. The rumor mill is churning furiously.

U.S. officials tell NBC News that they believe vice president is now running Egypt. There are reports Mubarak has left Cairo for a Sinai resort (Sharm el Sheikh). Egypt TV says that the presidency will make an 'important' statement soon. That doesn't sound good for Mubarak and increases the likelihood that the military has stepped in.
NBC News reported Mubarak had left from Almaza military airport with his family, citing a high-ranking official and a security source, and the news was later confirmed by a local government official.

However, the significance of the move was unclear as Mubarak regularly travels to the resort town on the southern tip of the Sinai region, where he has a palace.

Mubarak passed most of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman Thursday night, rebuffing the demands of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators that he step down immediately.

Is it possible that the Army got hoodwinked by Mubarak's defiant tone in last night's speech, and they've had enough - especially with the crowds growing even louder and more boisterous since Mubarak decided to essentially replay his speech from last week that was just as tone deaf?

Or has Suleiman decided that if he's already been delegated most of the powers of the presidency, that he might as well take the rest?

The protesters continue marching on government buildings and crowds are overflowing in Tahrir Square.
Demonstrators had coalesced Friday around the state television and radio building in downtown Cairo, while a few hundred protesters standing outside of the presidential palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis had entered into a tense standoff with Mubarak supporters.

The protesters had erupted in anger after the president clung to power in a state address late Thursday night. It was not clear how a solution would be found to end the confrontation between the demonstrators and the ruling elite from Mubarak's National Democratic Party. The military, which has served as the pillar of the modern Egyptian state, now finds itself caught in the middle of the surging antigovernment movement and Mubarak and his loyalists. Until now, Mubarak and his inner circle, who hail from the military's ranks, have commanded their loyalty.

Mubarak had delegated most of his authorities on Thursday to his new vice president, Omar Suleiman, his loyal aide and former intelligence chief, and promised free and fair elections in September, constitutional reforms and an eventual end to emergency law. But for the swelling crowds in central Cairo's Tahrir Square, it was too little, too late after rumors had coursed through the city that the Egyptian president was leaving office.

None of the hundreds of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square have confidence such reforms will happen with Mubarak still in office, even if he just lurks on the sidelines.

Demonstrators began the work of spreading the protest to new sites after Mubarak's address late Thursday and sent out new teams to seal off the state television and radio buildings. By early afternoon Friday, a few thousand protesters surrounded the building.

Mubarak has stepped down, but who exactly is in charge, and what are their intentions? Saying that he's turned over power to the military is a welcome sign, but that could lead to a military junta, or another chosen military leader, which would be a continuation of decades of military leaders assuming the role of Egyptian leader - Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak were all generals before being elevated to president.
Update at 11:08 a.m. ET: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators erupted in jubilation in Tahrir Square as vice president Omar Suleiman announces that President Mubarak has resigned and called on the army to "run the affairs of the country."

Update at 11:05 a.m. ET: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigne.d Vice President Omar Suleiman said in a brief televised statement. His statement in full: "Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of presidency and told the army to run the affairs of the country. "

Update at 11:03 a.m. ET: Hossam Badrawi, who was recently appointed general secretary of the NDP, resigns saying Egypt needs new parties, Al-Jazeera reports.
Questions of the day.

Who exactly is in charge?

NYT reports that "with the military in charge, Mr. Suleiman is apparently no longer vice president."

So, which of the generals is making the decisions (or group of generals) and who will be handling the next phase in the transfer of power from Mubarak's regime to a new political situation?

Would this not be considered a junta for at least the interim period until elections are eventually held?

The jubilation is certainly warranted, but it may be short lived if the Army doesn't hold up its end of the bargain with the Egyptian people.

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