After the crowd at Tahrir Square absorbed the news that Mubarak was still president and that his gestures to them were mostly vague or symbolic, they were from all accounts angry. Some took off their shoes and showed the soles, a sign of disrespect. To their credit, the protesters mostly quietly dispersed in order to get some rest for Friday, when they were already calling for major protests.
But, some were so exercised that 3,000 headed toward the presidential palace, where they staged a demonstration. Another 10,000 headed toward the television station, which they surrounded. The symbology here was dire, since the first thing a coup-maker in the Arab world does is to send tanks to surround the television station.
In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the crowds were enraged by the speech, according to Aljazeera. correspondent. Some chanted, "Hosni Mubarak, shame, shame; you want Egypt engulfed in flame!" They planned for a big procession on Friday after prayers, and smaller neighborhood rallies.
So yeah, that didn't go so well. Apparently, it caught everyone by surprise. Not only was the White House and the CIA expecting Mubarak to step down yesterday, but so was the Egyptian military. In punking the military, Mubarak severed the one thin thread still connecting him to power.
[New York Times:]
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military, ending his 30 years of autocratic rule and bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.
The streets of Cairo exploded in shouts of "God is Great" moments after Mr. Mubarak's vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak has passed all authority to a council of military leaders.
"Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state's affairs," Mr. Suleiman, grave and ashen, said in a brief televised statement.
The reports I've seen have the military ceding power to the Supreme Court at some point, with Omar Sulieman also on the outs, but there's a chance those are incorrect.
I'm keeping this short today, because I don't want to get too deep into a situation that's so open-ended and start making predictions. Egypt is a bit of a blank slate now, but the only thing that seems 100% certain is that Hosni Mubarak will not return to power. And the only direction in which Egypt can move is forward. There is no doubt that we're watching the middle east change in a very fundamental way.
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