Hosni Mubarak gets backing of Egypt's military: Who's really in charge?
Hosni Mubarak's refusal to step down after a day of signals that he was leaving power is pushing Egypt's uprising toward a dangerous confrontation. Egypt's military appears to be firmly backing the regime.
(Page 2 of 2)
'They're protecting the system'
Mr. Suleiman, a former spy chief and general whom many protesters view as responsible for state torture and as fiercely loyal to Mubarak, has already been governing Egypt in all but name since he was appointed vice president by Mubarak two weeks ago.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
In Pictures Exclusive Monitor photos of Egypt's turmoil
The Arab League observer mission in Syria is likely to fail
Egypt's military rulers crack down on democracy groups
Iran's threats over Strait of Hormuz? Understandable, but not easy
Eastern Libya poll indicates political Islam will closely follow democracy
Iraq's Maliki threatens, Sunnis grumble, and Baghdad goes boom
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
If Mubarak was hoping his formal endorsement of this de facto arrangement would satisfy demonstrators, who are demanding that he immediately step down, he was proven wrong.
"Yesterday we thought the military was pointing out that Mubarak's power was destabilizing Egypt, and that to step forward to remove him would be done for the sake of the nation," says Salman, a young protester manning one of the barricades in Tahrir Square near the Egyptian museum. "Now it seems it was all a bluff and they're protecting the system."
State of emergency still in place
Last night, Mubarak's speech provoked howls of rage in Tahrir.
Some of the demonstrators related to the more than 300 protesters that died at the hands of the Egyptian police and regime-paid thugs in late January, had to be physically restrained by their comrades as they thrashed about and urged protesters to immediately march on Mubarak's palace in Heliopolis and provoke a confrontation.
The clearest demand of the protesters – that Mubarak end his 30-year rule of Egypt – was denied. His promised amendments to the constitution to allow political freedom, set presidential term limits, and guarantee fair elections, have not yet been delivered on and have been a part of state rhetoric for a decade at least.
More ominous for the protesters still was the military's statement today that the emergency law, which has allowed Mubarak to circumvent the limited protections of the Egyptian Constitution whenever he sees fit, would be struck when "conditions permit." That's been the government's position on the emergency law since Mubarak took power in the wake of Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981.
Braced for confrontation
Now as tens of thousands in Tahrir Square pause for the Muslim Friday prayer, Egypt is braced for confrontation. A greater number of shops than usual were closed in central Cairo this morning (part of the Egyptian weekend) as average Egyptians wondered if an outpouring of rage could follow the prayers.
Small groups of protesters were in Heliopolis, the Cairo suburb that's home to the presidential palace, but a massive military and riot police presence made it seem unlikely that a march on the palace would be successful.
Why so many conflicting signals on Thursday? Some analysts in Cairo said it appeared that Mubarak believed by sowing some confusion, followed by new half-measure concessions, he could reduce support for the protest movement. The president is also known to be a very stubborn and proud man, and presented himself as one of Egypt's aggrieved parties in his speech last night.
"I never sought power or fake popularity. I trust that the overwhelming majority of the people know who Hosni Mubarak is," he said. "It pains me to see how some of my countrymen are treating me today."
On Tahrir Square many protesters believe the president is in fact seeking to spark an outpouring of violence that can be used to discredit the movement and crackdown protesters.
"All I can think of now is that Mubarak is provoking us," says Salman, who'd never participated in politics until he rushed to help protesters for the battle for Tahrir on Jan. 28 and has been there volunteering for most of the time since.