In an unprecedented move that keep the world on its toes, the Egyptian army announced on national television that it had moved in to fill what it called a power vacuum “to secure the country” while promising protesters that their demands would soon be met, fueling speculations that Mubarak is on the way out. It is reported that Mubarak planned a speech to the nation Thursday night.
Protesters packed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square broke into chants of “We’re almost there, we’re almost there” and waved V-for-victory signs as more flowed in to join them well after nightfall, bringing their numbers well over 100,000. The developments created confusion over who was calling the shots in Egypt and whether Mubarak and the military were united on the next steps.
There are also rumors that the army’s move is designed for an outright takeover, perhaps to push Mubarak out for the army to run the country itself in a break with the constitution. But that will prove hard to do, knowing the fact that the entrenched dictator would not have stepped down if it weren’t for the cries of thousands who sacrificed their nights, exposing their lives braving live ammunitions from Mubarak henchmen to make it happen.
It is also being reported that Mubarak might simply hand part of his power to Omar Suleiman while still keeping the presidency. That step would likely not satisfy protesters, and it was not clear if the military supports such a move. The United States’ CIA director Leon Panetta said Mubarak appeared poised to hand over his powers to Suleiman.
President Barack Obama said, “We are witnessing history unfold” in Egypt and vowed the United States would continue to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy. But he and the White House gave no indication if they knew what the next steps would be. The U.S. has close ties to the Egyptian military, which Washington give $1.3 billion a year in aid.
The dramatic developments capped 17 days of mass anti-government protests, some drawing a quarter-million people, to demand Mubarak’s immediate downfall.
What started as an Internet campaign has been ushered into a colossal storm, sweeping Mubarak’s nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule, fueled by widespread frustration over the regime’s lock on power, corruption, shocking poverty and outright misery.
We are watching closely the situation as it is being unfolded.