Egyptian leader disappointed and enraged pro-democracy protesters when he did not announce he would quit as they hoped.
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2011 23:09 GMT
Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, provoked rage on the country's streets when, in an anticlimactic speech, he said he would hand some powers to his deputy, but disappointed protesters who had been expecting him to announce his resignation altogether after more than two weeks of unrest.
"Leave! Leave!" chanted thousands who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Thursday in anticipation that a televised speech would be the moment their demands for an end to Mubarak's 30 years of authoritarian, one-man rule were met.
Instead, the 82-year-old former general portrayed himself as a patriot overseeing an orderly transition until elections in September, when his current term ends.
The hush that had swept over the crowd in Tahrir Square at the start of Mubarak's speech turned into an angry roar halfway through Mubarak's speech, as it became clear that the defiant president would not be stepping down.
Al Jazeera's Aymen Mohyeldin, reporting from Cairo, said that the speech was received as "patronising" as he referred to Egyptians as his children, and he only re-enforced the idea that he is "entrenched in the notion that he will hold on to power".
Mubarak praised the young people who have stunned the Arab world with unprecedented demonstrations, offering constitutional change and a bigger role for vice-president Omar Suleiman.
Rabab Al Mahdi, a professor at the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that the "level of anger and frustration at the square is unprecedented".
"This is putting us into a messy situation that can turn bloody at any moment," she said, adding that the fact that Mubarak "started a speech for more than 10 minutes, he was talking about himself - very narcissistic, again, giving the message that he's still in control, and this, in and by itself, offended people."
Feeling the pain
"I will not go back on my response to your voice and your call."
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo said that halfway through Mubarak's speech, when the president spoke of his years in public service, people began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air in a dramatic Arab show of contempt.
"You could also see tears in some of the people's eyes ... a lot of screams of anger, people just breaking down in tears, people just breaking down in pain," said Rageh.
She said that some people began to immediately mobilise for fresh protests on Friday in response to the speech.
Egyptian state television was not broadcasting the scenes of anger after Mubarak's speech.
The people's anger was not restricted to Cairo. In Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, crowds began roaring and shouting, heading toward the military base of the northern command to protest.
Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Alexandria said that the pro-democracy protesters were "more offended than ever" at hearing that Mubarak intended to remain in power until September.
"They really do not understand how president Mubarak cannot comprehend the strong sentiments which they have been expressing over the past two weeks," said Elshayyal.
The anger on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, hours ahead of a planned "Day of Martyrs" protest on Friday to commemorate the 300 or more killed by security forces since January 25 appeared ominous in an environment where the army has been on the streets for two weeks, and on Thursday said it was in charge.
"He [Mubarak] doesn't seem to understand the magnitude of what is happening in Egypt. At this point I don't think it will suffice," said Alanoud al-Sharek at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "He has performed quite a sleight of hand.
He has transferred authority to Omar Suleiman while somehow retaining his position as ruler."
Suleiman, a 74-year-old former intelligence chief, is not widely popular with protesters who are seeking a complete break with the military-dominated system which has governed Egypt for the past six decades.
Analyst: Egypt Being Pushed to 'Big, Dark Hole'
A university professor told VOA Egyptian anti-government protesters are shocked and disappointed by President Hosni Mubarak’s refusal to step down saying the embattled leader is, in his words, pushing the country into a big dark hole.
Said Sadek, professor of political sociology at the American University of Cairo, predicted that the protesters could begin a violent demonstration Friday after Muslim prayers to express what he described as their anger and displeasure at President Mubarak’s transformation plans he outlined in his Thursday night speech.
“His (Mr. Mubarak’s) answers were very much like a bureaucratic official, not a politician who is sensing that there is a problem in the country. But, we are facing one of the most serious crises we had in the last 100 years, and that is why there is anger and everybody (is) shouting, ‘We want you to leave. You have to get the message.’ This is the objective of the revolution,” said Sadek.
“I feel that he is pushing the country into a big dark hole and we don’t know what will happen afterwards, but there would be a very violent reaction tomorrow (Friday). I don’t think the people will accept it and they will act.”
Mr. Mubarak said in a national address late Thursday that he will not step down until a new president is selected in elections scheduled for September. But, he added that powers are being transferred to Egypt's vice president.
Mr. Mubarak said he was speaking as a “father to his children.” He said he would lift the hated emergency law when the security situation permits.
Later, Egypt's ambassador to Washington (Sameh Shoukry) said in a U.S. broadcast interview (CNN) that Vice President Omar Suleiman was now the “de facto president” of Egypt. He explained that Mr. Mubarak no longer had any presidential powers because he has transferred all of his powers to Mr. Suleiman.
Demonstrators in Cairo's main Tahrir Square jeered and chanted “He must leave” during the speech. They also waved their shoes in the air, a symbol of disrespect in the Arab world. They had earlier danced in expectation that Mr. Mubarak would resign.
After the president's speech, Mr. Suleiman called on Egyptian youth to “go home” and “go back to work.” He said the president handed down powers to him to restore peace and security and restore a normal way of life in Egypt.
Sadek said the anti-government protesters will continue to demand that Mr. Mubarak step down “immediately.”
“The fact (is) that many crimes were committed and they all (members of the government) fear that, if Mr. Mubarak leaves and others also leave, there is no safe haven because you can still prosecute them and get their money and put them on trial,” said Sadek.
U.S. intel chief: Egypt is a political 'earthquake'
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
Top U.S. intelligence officials defended their tracking of fast-moving political unrest in Egypt and Tunisia on Thursday, saying their officers in the region had filed hundreds of reports warning of the growing instability months before demonstrators took to the streets to oppose their governments.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said U.S. intelligence officers had done "yeoman's work" in tracking the instability, particularly in Egypt, where he likened the developments that are threatening the government of President Hosni Mubarak to a political "earthquake."
"You know where the fault lines are … but trying to predict the onset of the earthquake is a little more difficult," Clapper told the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
"We have done yeoman's work reporting on this dangerous and fast changing situation. … We are not clairvoyant," he said.
The fluid nature of the political situation, especially in Egypt, was on display in the House hearing room where committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., began quizzing the witnesses about news broadcasts just minutes before the session was called to order.
Those reports suggested that Mubarak's departure was imminent; they were proven false hours later when the president spoke but did not step down.
The chairman's comments sent many in the hearing room, including congressional aides and reporters, digging for their BlackBerrys even before CIA Director Leon Panetta told members that it was possible Mubarak could relinquish power as early as Thursday evening. He clarified his remarks minutes later, saying that U.S. officials continued to "monitor" reports that Mubarak would step down but did not have "specific" information about when such a move would occur.
Still, Panetta argued that the developments had not taken the U.S. government by surprise.
He said that U.S. intelligence officers had been filing a flurry of reports detailing political and economic instability throughout the region months before unrest boiled over in the streets.
He said nearly 400 reports were filed in the past year outlining "concerns we saw in this region that had the potential for disruption."
"Because of what happened in Tunisia, we (the intelligence community) were in a much better place" to deal with the developments in Egypt, he said.
Among the "triggers" for the political transformation now playing out in Cairo, Panetta said, are the large numbers of educated young people who are unemployed and the use of the Internet to organize and sustain demonstrations throughout the Egyptian capital.
Panetta said he has formed a special 35-member task force to assemble better information on, among other things, the role of the Internet in a number of countries.
The possible departure of Mubarak in Egypt was generating much concern in Washington, where Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., told Clapper she was worried that the leadership void would be filled by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.
"Do you consider the Muslim Brotherhood a danger based on their extremist ideology?" Myrick asked the director of National Intelligence.
Clapper described the group as an "umbrella" organization for a "variety of movements."
In the case of Egypt, he said, the brotherhood is "a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam."
Clapper said there was "no overarching agenda" of violence internationally. But FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared to disagree, saying that "obviously, elements of the Muslim Brotherhood here and overseas have supported terrorism."Sphere: Related Content