Mubarak Steps Down
The beseiged Egyptian president cedes power to the armed forces, ending nearly three decades of rule
After 18 days of protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned relinquishing power to the military. The announcement brought on a flurry of jubilation in the streets of Cairo, as demonstrators cried "Egypt is free!" The Egyptian military, meanwhile, released a statement promising to implement constitutional reforms with the suggestion that vice president Omar Suleiman would take over in the interim.
Updates and analysis are streaming in from Twitter and around the web:
The Washington Post describes a euphoric celebration:
Pandemonium broke out as huge throngs of demonstrators realized they had acheived their goal. Egyptians jumped up and down, pumped their fists, waved their flags and hugged each other, jubilant that they had forced Mubarak's removal after 30 years of authoritarian rule...
In neighborhoods across Cairo, people stopped cars, getting out to hug and kiss each other. They shouted, "God is great," and "Congratulations," honking their horns in celebration.
The Wall Street Journal notes an impending air of political confusion:
The resignation was the culmination of nearly three weeks of protests that rocked Egypt and send shudders through the region. It opens a period of uncertaintly, however, not only for Egypt, which will have to manage a period of military rule, but for countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S., for whom Mr. Mubarak has formed a key anchor of their policies toward the Middle East.
ABC News adds context:
The surprise statement [makes Mubarak] the second Arab leader forced to resign by a remarkable populist and largely peaceful uprising. Last month, Tunisia's president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali resigned and left the country in the face of massive street protests against his regime.
Vice President Omar Suleiman announces Mubarak's departure:
The New York Times sheds light on the challenges the military now faces:
[Mubarak's] departure leaves the military in charge of this nation of 80 million, facing insistent calls for fundamental democratic change and open elections. The military, which has repeatedly promised to respond to the demands of protesters, has little recent experience of directly governing the country. It will have to defuse demonstrations and strikes that have paralyzed the economy and left many of the country’s institutions, including state media and the security forces, in shambles.
Chris Cassidy at The American Prospect worries about what comes next for Egyptian elections:
Under the Egyptian constitution, the president's resignation mandates elections within two months. Suleiman previously stated that Egyptian democracy first requires "the culture of democracy." What that means, and whether the military will endorse Suleiman's previous warning has yet to be seen. In his 20-second speech today, Suleiman made no mention of democracy or elections.
Wired's Spencer Ackerman speaks to the perseverance of protesters and the media:
Neither violent repression nor an Internet shutdown nor mass arrests of Facebook-fueled human rights activists could stop what’s become the #Jan25 revolution. Al Jazeera was blamed for the protests by Suleiman and its reporters were physically attacked and detained, but the network went to round-the-clock coverage that kept pressure on Mubarak.
The Cato Institute offers its libertarian take and congratulates President Obama:
These protests were driven by popular discontent with Mubarak, rising food prices, rampant corruption, and limited political and economic opportunity. The Obama administration generally resisted calls to place the United States in the middle of what was a purely internal matter.
Those who called for a heavy-handed U.S. role in this whole affair—many of them the same people who have called for U.S. intervention in dozens of other places over the the past few decades—have been proven wrong once again. While the ideas of liberty are universal, the spark for change, and the energy that carries it forward, must come from within. The Egyptian people started this, and the Egyptian people should finish it.
Where will Mubarak go from here? Christopher Davidson, professor of Middle East studies at Britain's Durham University, speculates:
He'll be headed to the Gulf for sure. Perhaps not to Saudi like Ben Ali, but I think he'll go to the UAE. [UAE Foreign Minister] Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed visited Cairo quite publicly and likely put a plan on the table to give him refuge.
Foreign Policy's David Rothkop emphasizes caution:
While the drama unfolding in Egypt today is profound and powerful, it clearly marks the end of only the first scene of the first act of what will be long twisting drama. Many questions hang in the air about what comes next. What will the transition look like? Will the army truly allow the emergence of a pluralistic, representative model government? Will the interim government have the savvy to present such a road map early enough to placate activists? Will the process be transparent enough? Will international observers be invited to monitor elections? Will real democracy be supported by broader changes than just in election laws?
Commentary's Max Boot offers a word of advise for other oppressed peoples:
There is a lesson here for those not too fanatical or deluded to learn it. Put down the bomb, the sniper rifle, whatever weapon you have, and grab a placard, go on Twitter, organize a rally. True, many peaceful protests have been repressed too, as we have seen most recently in Iran; but they offer a much surer road to regime change than does blowing up innocent people.
The New York Times Nick Kristof worries that the military won't implement real reform:
I worry that senior generals may want to keep (with some changes) a Mubarak-style government without Mubarak. In essence the regime may have decided that Mubarak had become a liability and thrown him overboard — without any intention of instituting the kind of broad, meaningful democracy that the public wants. Senior generals have enriched themselves and have a stake in a political and economic structure that is profoundly unfair and oppressive. And remember that the military running things directly really isn’t that different from what has been happening: Mubarak’s government was a largely military regime (in civilian clothes) even before this. Mubarak, Vice President Suleiman and so many others — including nearly all the governors — are career military men.
Neil Hicks of Human Rights First says the U.S. must become pro-active player in the coming months:
This is a critical moment for the U.S. government to make clear its intention to support the Egyptian people -- not the next despot... The Mubarak regime has relied on U.S. assistance to deny the Egyptian people basic rights and freedoms again and again. If the U.S. government continues the status quo, it will be endorsing the same despotism that has brought us to this point of crisis.
Was this a military coup? Steven Taylor at Outside the Beltway thinks so:
To call it a coup is not to assign a negative assessment to the events. Indeed, this may have been the best way to move things forward. Still, it seems clear that Mubarak was not going to resign on his own and to foster a transition on his own (which he could have done). Still, we do not even know what the military high command’s dispositions are at the moment in regards to reform. No doubt they figured out that something had to be done to restore order and to forestall a movement towards greater chaos. Beyond that, we do not know what will happen next.
Notes from the Twitterverse: The moment hits home to Rawya Rageh, an Al Jazeera English reporter currently in Egypt: "I was born the week Mubarak assumed power - in all my life I have never seen the streets of Egypt erupt like this." Habiba Hamid, a journalist at The National, points to the roots of the protests. "The region owes one Tunisian fruit-seller a great deal today," he tweets, referring to the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire, sparking that country's protests. Nadia El-Awady, a journalist and activist in Cairo tweets: "I have cried my heart out today. So happy we stood our ground and didnt let our martyrs down."