The early evening in Egypt was filled with jubilation, as the state media broadcast reports pointing to the imminent ouster of reviled President Hosni Mubarak and promised a 10:00 PM speech that everyone assumed would be a resignation speech.
10:00 PM arrived, and the state media was broadcasting sports news and tourism promos. No explanation was given, and it wasn’t until 10:30 PM, fashionably late perhaps, that Hosni Mubarak finally emerged to deliver the words everyone wanted to hear. But he didn’t.
Instead, Mubarak’s speech was as patronizing as ever, insisting “foreign pressure” was trying to chase him out and vowing to remain in office to protect Egyptians, “his children,” and oversee the transition.
He did promise to turn over more authority to Vice President and heir-apparent Omar Suleiman, who the ambassador later described as the “de facto head of state,” but the speech reaction was clear, as media covered the massive crowds in Tahrir Square: confusion and disappointment, quickly turning into rage.
Mubarak’s “vision” and calls to end the public protests were a slap in the face to many after weeks of rallies demanding his ouster, and were more of a call back to the “day of departure” speech, which was also expected to be the end of things, than it was anything productive.
Reports had protesters so furious that they were hoping to march on the president’s residence, and Egypt’s military struggled to placate the crowd with promises that “everything you want will be realized,” as protesters become increasingly impatient.
Indeed, Mubarak’s defiant position has gotten so absurd, and his speeches so counterproductive to his government’s goal of “restoring order,” that a number of people on the media began to question Mubarak’s sanity, wondering if his decades of dictatorial rule have taken such a toll that he has lost all control of his senses, and whether this might be used as a justification for his ouster going forward.
Other more charitable people are trying to believe that the Egyptian dictator was hoping to placate the public by “stepping back,” and turning over day to day operations of the regime to Suleiman. If this was the reasoning it seems they dramatically underestimated just how little trust there is for Suleiman and how much patience the protesters have for a Mubarak-style regime going forward.