Just 20 hours after he patiently explained to the nation how badly they needed him, and so he couldn’t possibly step aside, Hosni Mubarak resigned by proxy – the very proxy he had appointed the night before.
The interpretation, and figuring out the implications, will take some time, and a lot more detail than was immediately available. Did Mubarak leave for Sharm el-Sheikh fearing for his life if he stayed in Cairo, with the intention of resigning, or just to take a holiday? Is there anything to be read into the fact that the announcement came from vice president Omar Suleiman (who the previous night had become the vessel for some of Mubarak’s power) rather than the supreme council of the armed forces, who now holds power? Does the handover to the military, rather than some attempt at an oh-so-fashionable government of national unity, have anything to do with fear of the Muslim Brotherhood? What does this mean for Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Israel, Gaza, China, Russia, the US, and South Africa?
Watch: Egypt’s Vice President Omar Suleiman addresses the nation on Egyptian State TV.
On Friday evening, Egyptians didn’t care. They were too busy laughing, crying, singing, dancing, waving flags and sometimes doing all five at the same time. Within minutes of the announcement it became clear that this is one party that won’t be wrapping up soon.
Photo: Anti-government protesters ride motorbikes during a march outside the presidential palace in Cairo February 11, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.
And much of the rest of the world found itself mesmerised watching those scenes of celebration. Except, perhaps, the political strategists of the many groupings who see either threat or opportunity in this regime change. In bowing to the inevitable, Mubarak may have prevented open warfare in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Instead, Egypt now faces a long and confusing period of manoeuvring and jockeying for position. And anybody who can tell you whether that will result in a stronger democracy, a theocracy, another kleptocracy, or something else entirely, is lying. DM
Main photo: Reuters.
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