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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The story behind Hosni Mubarak's non-resignation

Sorry for the long silence this evening. I had to drive someone to the airport and because our internet connection was down for a few hours, I could not line up enough posts in advance.

I'm sure a lot of you were as surprised as the White House was last Thursday night when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak did not resign (of course, he eventually did resign on Friday). What happened on Thursday night? Why didn't he resign then? Here's the inside story.
Insiders in Egypt have given The Associated Press an initial picture of what happened in the hours before Egypt's "unoustable" leader of nearly 30 years fell. Some of them spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Their account portrayed Mubarak as unable, or unwilling, to grasp that nothing less than his immediate departure would save the country from the chaos generated by the protests that began January 25. A senior government official said Mubarak lacked the political machinery that could give him sound advice about what was happening in the country.

"He did not look beyond what Gamal was telling him, so he was isolated politically," said the official. "Every incremental move (by Mubarak) was too little too late."

The military, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly impatient with the failure of Mubarak and Omar Suleiman, his newly appointed vice president, to end the protests. The unrest spiraled out of control late last week, with demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins and even gunbattles engulfing almost the entire nation.

Insiders spoke of fighting among Cabinet ministers over how great a threat the demonstrators posed, and of deliberate attempts by close aides, including Gamal Mubarak, to conceal from the president the full extent of what was happening on the streets.

The insiders who spoke to the AP include a senior Egyptian official, editors and journalists from state newspapers close to the regime who have spent years covering Mubarak's presidency, retired army generals in contact with top active duty officers, senior members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party and analysts familiar with the machinations of Mubarak's inner circle.


Insiders said Mubarak's address Thursday night was meant to be his resignation announcement. Instead, he made one last desperate attempt to stay in office after being encouraged to do so by close aides and especially by his family, long the subject of rumours of corruption, abuse of power and extensive wealth.

One insider said Gamal, his banker-turned-politician son, rewrote the speech several times before the recording. It was aired at 11pm, several hours after state TV said Mubarak was about to address the nation. It showed brief footage of him meeting with Suleiman and his Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.

The address was clearly prepared in a rush. It had rough cuts, and Mubarak was caught at least once acting like he was between takes, fixing his tie and looking away from the camera.

Information Minister Anas al-Fiqqi was there at the studio alongside Gamal Mubarak, according to two of the insiders. State TV quoted him in the hours before the broadcast saying that Mubarak would not resign. On Saturday, al-Fiqqi announced his own resignation.

Mubarak said in the address that he was handing over most of his powers to Suleiman but again rejected calls for his resignation. He vowed to introduce genuine reforms, prosecute those behind the violence that left scores of protesters dead and offered his condolences to the victims' families. He said he was hurting over calls for his removal and, in his defence, recounted his record in public service. He was not going anywhere until his term ended in September, he said.

He had hoped that putting Suleiman in charge would end the protests and allow him to remain in office as a symbolic figure, a scenario that would have seen him make a dignified exit.

The address betrayed what many Egyptians suspected for years - Mubarak was out of touch with the people.
The real question here is whether Mubarak was the only one who was 'out of touch.' Did those around him think they could impose his rule on Egyptians for another several months to allow him a dignified exit? Did they still think there was a chance that his son Gamal would succeed him? Someday, we will find out.

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At 4:24 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Gamal was clearly out of his depth and even for a country accustomed to Pharaohs, he didn't look and act the part of a pretender to the throne. He was a joke and Egyptians wondered where he could have succeeded where his father failed. And the regime simply didn't accept him.


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