Patrick Appel at Sullivan’s place has a round-up of reacts. Video via Appel.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military on Friday, ending his nearly 30 years of autocratic rule and bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.
The streets of Cairo exploded in shouts of “God is Great” moments after Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak had passed all authority to a council of military leaders.
“Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state’s affairs,” Mr. Suleiman, grave and ashen, said in a brief televised statement.
Even before he had finished speaking, protesters began hugging and cheering, shouting “Egypt is free!” and “You’re an Egyptian, lift your head.”
“He’s finally off our throats,” said one protester, Muhammad Insheemy. “Soon, we will bring someone good.”
David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy:
As the jubilation spread across Tahrir Square with the announcement of Hosni Mubarak’s departure, one can only imagine what was running through the minds of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he watched. Or that of Saudi King Abdullah. Or Jordan’s King Abudllah. Or of any of the region’s autocratic leaders. We know that over the past several days the Saudis, the Emiratis and the Jordanians had urged support for the status quo. So too, for that matter, had Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
And 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?
The Egyptian people have won a startling and historic victory. It is perhaps the most difficult thing in the world to do, to force a Pharaoh from the palace, but they did it, and without bombs.
Now, though, comes a series of terrible challenges that could undo what the people have achieved. The Egyptian economy needs to grow at least seven percent a year to create the jobs necessary for the masses of underemployed, often-over-educated, young people who have been crowding the streets, and economic power is still in the hands of plutocrats and oligarchs, who are not terribly interested in reforming the system that has made them obscenely rich.
If economic power is in the hands of the oligarchs, political power now is in the hands of the military. In other situations, in other countries, what we’ve seen today is called a military coup. Egypt has no tradition of democracy, and a strong tradition of military leadership. The people, for the moment, seem to want the military. I don’t think this will last. And because Hosni Mubarak spent 30 years marginalizing and banning secular parties and opposition movements, there is no obvious path toward representative democracy. I am not overly worried, for the moment, in the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover, but the fortunes of the Brothers could change quickly, and dangerously.
My apologies for being a downer, but Egypt’s crisis has just begun.
Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:
Don’t even bother to try keeping up with Egypt on Twitter right now. Using the social networking service that allowed the world to follow the uprising in real time is like drinking from a fire hose. Monasosh, another leading Egypt-tweeter, reports, “Shit! Ppl are going crazy, screaming and running.” Danger Room friend Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation: “I am close by Tahrir and the roar even outside the square is really loud. Some happy people right now.”
On “We Are All Khalid Said,” the Facebook page that galvanized the 18-day mass protests, Nana Mohamed comments (via GoogleTranslate), “Egypt gets the salvation of God.” The mood is the polar opposite of the fury expressed on the page last night after dictator Hosni Mubarak defiantly vowed to stay in power until presidential elections this summer.
“I’ve worked my whole life to see the power of the people come to the fore,” activist Rabab Al Mahdi told Al Jazeera through tears. “I never thought I would be alive to see it. It’s not just about Mubarak. It’s a protest that brought about the people’s power to bring about the change that no one, no one thought was possible.”
The euphoria is unimaginable. Peaceful protests, propelled but by no means determined by social media, dislodged a 30-year dictatorship in one of the most important Middle Eastern countries. 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.
It sounds a bit ugly to say, but it is still true: the removal of Mubarak and the transfer of power to the high command has to be understood as a coup d’etat. Indeed, I will not be surprised if we learn at some point in the future that Mubarak did not “decide” to “step down” and to then “transfer” power to the military but rather that he was told by the military that that was what he was going to do. The lack of a statement from Mubarak, and his removal from Cairo seems to support this notion (as did the dour pronouncement of the Vice President about the resignation—a stark contrast to his more defiant statements after Mubarak’s speech last night).
The constitution has been set aside as there are no provisions for a military takeover of this type. And I would expect to see other extraconstitutional moves in the days to come (like, perhaps, a dissolution of parliament and/or the cabinet).
It is worth noting that while the protestors prompted these events that the state is under the control of the military, not the protestors. The real question now is whether this abrogation of the constitution will lead to its replacement with a more liberal system or whether the military will consolidate power in its own hands.
In the coming days it will be most fascinating to see whether the military reaches out to opposition figures or whether it remains quiet about its intentions.
I would note, by the way, that to date there is no evidence whatsoever that there is a threat of an radical Islamic takeover in Egypt.
By the way: 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.
My instant, uninformed reaction – if Mubarak had announced last night that he was stepping aside in favor of Suleiman and a group of generals, the popular reaction would have been that the faces had changed but the regime remains the same.
Today, since he is stepping aside in response to overwhelming public rejection of his speech, the public response seems to be a sense of empowerment and change.
Slick marketing by the regime, if this flies.
OR, IF YOU DON’T LIKE THAT IDEA I HAVE OTHERS:
Upon booth review, we are considering the possibility that Mubarak is secretly from Missouri, the “Show Me” state. Yesterday his aides greased the skids and tried to get him to gdepart gracefully, without success. Today, having seen how well he is loved and how successful his speech was, he is prepared to move on.
Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy:
There’s been a fair amount of speculation in recent days about now ex-President Mubarak’s preperations for departure. I just spoke with Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East studies at Britain’s Durham University who focuses on the economic interests of Arab rulers. He cast doubt on the $70 billion figure which has been floated widely by the media recently, but said Mubarak undoubtedly has interests throughout the world to fall back on:
There would be something wrong with the people he paid if we knew much about this. A lot of the figures we’ve seen in the press are really just speculation. As with gulf ruling family, his wealth his hidden abroad very carefully with layer upon layer of shell companies in London and the States. There’s also a big question about his numbered bank accounts in Europe, whether he will be able to recover those or not.
Davidson speculated that Mubarak’s ability to recover funds from his Swiss bank accounts, and the difficulties his now partner-in-exile Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has had in recovering his own assets, may have played a role in his delayed departure:
I would imagine that he’ll struggle to recover everything. A few weeks ago we had the Baby Doc ruling in Switzerland so that will clearly be playing on his mind. I suspect that this one of the reasons why he was trying to hold on as long as possible, so he could portray himself as having resigned peacefully as a legitimate president rather than having been ousted.
Despite having now holed up at his “Winter Residence” in Egypt — which is less a palace than a floor of a luxury hotel and golf resort — and his earlier promise to die on Egyptian soil, Davidson believes that Mubarak is not long for Egypt:
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.
Update: Sure enough, we now have reports that Switzerland is freezing Mubarak’s assets.
And so Mubarak is done.
How has Barack Obama done during this major foreign policy challenge? I don’t know, and you don’t know, and the people talking about it on TV and in the blogs don’t know; too much of what’s happened (and what may have happened) is behind the scenes. Not just what Obama and the Americans are doing, but it’s going to take some time for us to really know what many of the key Egyptians have been up to. If I had to guess, at this point, I’d say that at the very least he’s avoided any significant egregious blunders, but even that is extremely provisional. We won’t be able to really say much for a while.
In the meantime, I want to steer you to some very useful analysis of the presidency in foreign affairs from political scientists. Over at the Monkey Cage, read two excellent posts from Elizabeth Saunders (first one, second one), who studies the ways that presidents personally make a difference in foreign policy. And I also highly recommend a post by presidential scholar Matthew Dickinson, who emphasizes the constraints presidents work under in foreign and security issues. For those interested in more, read a journal article by Saunders on JFK and LBJ in Vietnam.