What next after Mubarak’s last ditch offer?
Mubarak said he would leave office in September. He promised to deliver political reforms, which he has studiously dodged for 30 years, in his remaining months.
February 2, 2011 12:16 by Reuters
A sea of people on Tuesday sent the Egyptian president a message loud and clear that he go — now. Hosni Mubarak’s response was an offer that fell short of that.
Mubarak said he would leave office only after his term ends, with a presidential election due in September. He promised to deliver political reforms, which he has studiously dodged for 30 years, in his remaining months.
Below are some questions and answers about what happens next:
* CAN MUBARAK LAST UNTIL SEPTEMBER?
It looks highly unlikely. The one call all the protesters have united around is that Mubarak must quit now and that they would not go home until their goal was achieved. “He will leave, we are not leaving,” they chanted after Mubarak spoke. Probably a million or so hit Egypt’s street on Tuesday. That is a staggering turnout. Until these protests erupted on Jan. 25, anti-government demonstrations rarely mustered more than a few hundred. Protesters show no sign of being ready to give up now after squeezing more concessions from Mubarak in one week than he was willing to offer in 30 years. Protesters have the numbers to paralyse the state and make Mubarak’s position untenable.
But one new element that adds to the mix was the sudden emergence hours after Mubarak’s speech on Tuesday of small, pro-Mubarak demonstrations, which state television swiftly focused on. That suggests die-hard loyalists are not willing to give up easily, and possibly not without a fight.
How the military responds now may be decisive. The army pledged not to use force against protesters and said it recognised their “legitimate demands”. It had little choice, given that the police lost control of the crowds with heavy-handed tactics. If the loyalists and protesters come to blows, the army could face a different dynamic and a tough choice. Either it abandons the president — one of its number — or squanders its popularity with the street. For now, it appears that it wants to keep the street on its side.