This post has been updated — ed
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced this afternoon on Egyptian State TV that he won’t seek reelection this September, something of a victory for the millions who’ve flooded into the streets in opposition to the former general’s 30 year reign. He did, however, say that he would “die on the soil of Egypt,” indicating that while he may step down he doesn’t plan to be run out of the country like Tunisia’s Ben Ali was just a few weeks ago.
Unsurprisingly, protesters in Tahrir Square (where there had been hundreds of thousands earlier in the day) shouted Not enough! Not enough!, suggesting that the news is unlikely to end the protests, which are heading into their 9th day.
In a statement that amounted to an elegy for himself—followed, appropriately enough, by a syrupy montage of the president performing the presidency—Mubarak claimed that he didn’t want to just step down immediately as that might leave the country in chaos, thus endangering Egyptians even further.
In a post-speech analysis, however, Al Jazeera’s Marwan Bishara noted that this won’t fly for most Egyptians as “no one believes that this regime can preside over a transition to democracy in the next few months,” as Egyptians have seen it before and been disappointed every time.
Bishara also noted that Mubarak’s call for parliament to revise the constitution, in order, he says, to implement term limits and ensure a functioning democracy, would be rejected by the protesters since he was the one who had “Godfathered all these wrongs over the past 30 years.”
Of course, while Mohamed ElBaradei has proposed options for an interim government, there’s no guarantee that any of them would be supported—either by the military whose top brass he has just opened talks with, or the protesters, some of whom have, according to reports, ridiculed the Nobel Peace Prize winner. In a Telegraph article one activist blogger called ElBaradei an “opportunist,” while another tweeted, referring to his residence in Austria: “Shall we just call your mobile when we have finished the revolution for you.”
So with the crowds shouting Go away! Go away! Revolution until death! into the night, and the Obama Administration until now cautiously taking its lead from unfolding events having told Mubarak that “the transition must begin now,” the next step remains a big unknown.
What is known is that RD will continue to feature analysis, commentary and on-the-ground reporting from Cairo, so check back regularly or sign up for the newsletter.