Having refused to jump, Mubarak was pushed out by the military on Friday. Was traveling, will update tonight.
The roller coaster media ride on Thursday centered on stories coming out of unnamed, highly placed Egyptian sources that President Hosni Mubarak would give a speech that evening in which he stepped down. When the time came, and Mubarak finally spoke, he did no such thing. He remained president, and only said that he was transferring some unspecified powers, at some unspecified time, to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, a former head of military intelligence allegedly implicated in torture. Most likely, Mubarak interpreted what he planned to do in his own mind as a kind of stepping down, and gave sufficiently ambiguous indications that those around him misunderstood his intentions.
The danger is that by raising expectations and then dashing them, Mubarak may have created an even more volatile revolutionary situation, which could easily deteriorate into violence and a spiral of violence.
In 1992 the Algerian generals held parliamentary elections and allowed the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), the Muslim fundamentalist party, to compete. FIS unexpectedly won more than two-thirds of seats in parliament, which would have allowed them to amend the constitution. The generals were suddenly stricken with fear at what might happen, and they abruptly declared the election null and void. Millions of FIS supporters were outraged, feeling their victory had been stolen from them. The situation deteriorated into a civil war between fundamentalists and secularists that ultimately killed perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 persons over the succeeding decade, and left Algeria to this day in a fragile political condition.
Basically, the rule in politics is that you don’t raise people’s hopes if you aren’t prepared to follow through on your pledges.
After the crowd at Tahrir Square absorbed the news that Mubarak was still president and that his gestures to them were mostly vague or symbolic, they were from all accounts angry. Some took off their shoes and showed the soles, a sign of disrespect. To their credit, the protesters mostly quietly dispersed in order to get some rest for Friday, when they were already calling for major protests.
But, some were so exercised that 3,000 headed toward the presidential palace, where they staged a demonstration. Another 10,000 headed toward the television station, which they surrounded. The symbology here was dire, since the first thing a coup-maker in the Arab world does is to send tanks to surround the television station.
In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the crowds were enraged by the speech, according to Aljazeera. correspondent. Some chanted, “Hosni Mubarak, shame, shame; you want Egypt engulfed in flame!” They planned for a big procession on Friday after prayers, and smaller neighborhood rallies.