With speculation and widespread reports predicting his resignation, Hosni Mubarak struck an apologetic tone, but insisted on remaining president. Mubarak did make further concessions to anti-regime organizers, including five constitutional amendments, annulling a prior amendment, and transferring the authority he maintains as president to his hand-picked Vice President Omar Suleiman.
According to Al Jazeera English, the constitutitonal concessions fell well short of protesters' demands.
By merely ceding his presidential powers, Mubarak avoids forcing an election onto the country within two months, as would be required if he resigned. It thus appears that both the regime's promise of a September election, and the regime itself, remain standing.
Mubarak's speech initially silenced a crowd in anticipatory celebration, roaring, "Go away!" Upon hearing the news that Mubarak would not resign, masses of protesters across Egypt erupted in disgust. Halfway through Mubarak's speech, as he began detailing his patriotic achievements, Tahrir Square became a sea of pumping fists, reportedly timed to the chant of "Leave! Leave!"
Suleiman, to whom Mubarak ceded authority, became the first Egyptian Vice President since Mubarak was elevated from the vice presidency in the wake of President Anwar Sadat's assassination. A 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable revealed by Wikileaks questioned whether he might be in line for the presidency. His longstanding loyalty to Mubarak suggests more of the same from the same regime apparently now headed by an old friend.
Muslim Brotherhood leaders gave interviews in advance of Mubarak's speech, projecting their fears of a military coup already under way. With the former intelligence chief now exercising presidential powers, it remains unclear whether those fears have or will be realized.
Before Mubarak's speech, media was awash in contradictory information about Mubarak's whereabouts. Cables alternately indicating that Mubarak was in the Red Sea port of Sharm El Sheik -- no, that he would speak live from the presidential palace in Cairo -- no, that he'd already left for Qatar or Saudi Arabia. Earlier in the day, MSNBC reported that Mubarak would step down within hours. Then, the regime's Interior Minister declared that Mubarak would not step down. Fiction flew like fact, as the world tuned in for an unprecedented event at the crossroad of continents. And #ReasonsMubarakIsLate flooded across Twitter.
In the hour before the speech, Egyptian state television began adopting a much less hostile tone towards protesters and their demands. Then, in the minutes before Mubarak took to the airwaves, a bizarre multi-minute infomercial for the country of Egypt was aired. State television next listed charges against officials of the Mubarak regime, in what now appears to have been an attempt to mollify a crowd whose primary demand remains unheeded.
The Egyptian people are anything but mollified.
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