Rumors abounded that today was the day that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would step down from his post. So confident of this development, Wael Ghonim, the inspirational Google employee who was kidnapped and released earlier his week, Tweeted to his followers, "Revolution 2.0: Mission Accomplished." In anticipation of the change in power, an air of celebration pervaded Tahrir Square, the main gathering area for the Egyptian protesters, and the mood was jubilant. Given that there has been so little to cheer about in Egyptian politics for the past 30 years, it was hard not to be happy for the protesters.
The U.S. also believed that Mubarak was finished. CIA Chief Leon Panetta, speaking in front of the House Intelligence Committee, stated that there was a "strong likelihood" that Mubarak would leave office today. And other anonymous senior U.S. officials expressed similar views on Mubarak to various American news outlets.
Alas, the news of political change did not come true. Mubarak dd not resign from office, and he has continued his mantra of the last two weeks: He is a son of Egypt, he is s not leaving the country, and definitely not leaving the Presidency until his tenure ends in September. The spin from Egyptian state is that, though Mubarak is still President, he’s effectively neutered his political power by transferring a number of duties and responsibilities to Vice President Omar Suleiman (who has little reform credentials). Really, so goes the logic, Mubarak is just a figurehead, the Head of State but no longer the Head of Government.
But this spin fails to understand that Mubarak is seen by the Egyptian protesters as the primary example of the ills and problems of the country: rampant corruption, widening economic inequality, and severe political repression and brutality. The protesters not only want a change of system (from an authoritarian to a democratic state) but also a change in who fills the Presidency.
So what we have now is a growing contingent of Egyptians who are angry and confused at Mubarak’s moves. One protester, who was interviewed on CNN this evening, claimed that he felt a profound sense of disrespect because of Mubarak’s reluctance to listen to and comply with the demands of the people. Surely, the Egyptians are also suffering from dashed expectations that were extremely heightened today. Egyptian media reported the Mubarak rumors, and the Egyptian military publicly stated that all of the protester demands were going to be met. As a result, there are many different heated emotions in play, and they are only hardening as long as the political crisis persists.
Large demonstrations are expected on Friday. But this only begs a number of questions: Will the protesters continue to keep their emotions in check or will they eschew their current option of civil disobedience? How will Mubarak and his cronies respond to growing protests? Will the military intervene? And if so, which side will the military decide to defend?