Egypt protests: Mubarak's going -- just not fast enough

As in Tunisia, the long-ruling president is proving a liability to the power structure. He's going. But not quickly enough for protesters.

AP Photo/Egypt TV
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak addresses Egyptians Thursday night. His refusal to step down has angered hundreds of thousands of protesters who have been demonstrating for democracy.

As in Tunisia, the man who had become president for life, whose family, friends, and associates received preferred treatment over the decades he has held power, has become a huge liability in the face of a widening and disruptive protest movement.

Unlike in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak isn't going away quite yet.

The real power at the top in Egypt is the military. Egypt's last three presidents -- Gamel Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Mr. Mubarak -- all were military officers. Omar Suleiman, the newly appointed vice-president to whom Mubarak yesterday said he is transferring an unspecified amount of governing authority, is a former general. What happens next?

Mr. Suleiman will probably demand a restoration of order and boost the army's presence on the streets to enforce that demand. That would increase the prospect of confrontation between military and protesters.

Many Egyptians are worried about the effect of continued civil unrest on the economy and law and order. But many, too, have felt the power of being part of a mass movement. The Mubarak era is coming to an end too slowly for them. But it is nevertheless ending. If his successor doesn't follow through with reforms, the protest movement may not be.

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