Mubarak stepping down in Egypt: Was it a coup?
With Hosni Mubarak stepping down, the transfer of power to the military seems like a coup. But new lines of authority in Egypt are not clear, and the Army is not the only actor on the political stage.
Hosni Mubarak stepping down Friday as president of Egypt and handing control of the country to the military is an event that marks a stunning end to Mr. Mubarak’s iron-grip regime. As recently as Thursday night, in a speech to the nation, he’d sounded as if he would hang on to the bitter end, refusing to give in fully to the demands of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have filled Cairo’s streets.Skip to next paragraph
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Then something changed. Was Mubarak pushed out by the Egyptian armed forces in a process that might fairly be called a military coup?
Well, yes and no. The “yes” part comes from the fact that Mubarak does not appear to have made his own decision to leave. He was pushed out, and the military is the only Egyptian institution with the power to push him.
IN PICTURES: Exclusive Monitor photos of Egypt's turmoil
Plus, in resigning, Mubarak handed control of Egypt to the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces, announced Vice President Omar Suleiman on state broadcast outlets Friday. So people in uniform apparently now are responsible for the operation of the government. If that’s the real situation, it meets a classic definition of a coup.
But in many ways the military was already running the country. It’s true that Mubarak created civilian security forces to protect his regime and in some ways has lessened the military’s traditional involvement in Egyptian politics. But Mubarak was a military man himself, the former head of the Egyptian Air Force. So was Anwar Sadat. The military has been Egypt’s locus of power since it overthrew the nation’s monarchy in 1952. Is it a coup if you change the figure at the top of a pyramid you already control?
And this may be only the beginning. Mubarak’s removal was the protesters’ central demand, but far from the only one. Many have called for an expansion of civil and political rights – in short, democracy – as well. Mubarak’s turtle-like slowness in reacting to the protests may have only inflamed the situation. A week ago his resignation might have been enough. It might not be, now.
Street pushing for civilian rule