but I don’t think today was the turning point that Egyptians hoped it would be. Even before Hosny’s mind-bogglingly self-serving speech, I suspected that the outcome would be the regime holding on in some form, even if he promises to step down in September – either with him staying on or handing over to Suleiman as a transitional president.
Perhaps the next few days will prove me wrong – and hopefully with a minimum of violence and loss of life. If the demonstrations continue on their current scale, then of course Mubarak will start feeling the economic pressure, with the downgrading of Egypt’s investment rating and chaos on the stock markets. Yet many of the protesters will start feeling that pressure too – one of the great things about the past few days is the way it has been able to widen participation to include those from all socio-economic brackets, but that is also a weakness, as after another week of protests some are going to start to suffer from the disruption to normal life. And they don’t have billions of dollars in US aid to rely on. Cheers, structural adjustment.
Obama’s oratorical meanderings of the last five minutes only deepened my fears; for a lot of this, unfortunately, hangs on US support. If Mubarak’s ‘concessions’ appease the US desire for stability with a gesture towards reform, then it looks like he will be able to sit out the next few months. If it’s not enough, then we’ll have to watch how the US engages with figures like ElBaradei and Amr Moussa – but I think, as I said before, that’s it’s unlikely we’ll see them taking power. The US, above all, wants stability, and for them the best solution is some manifestation of the current regime with a more democratic transition come September. As for the army – despite their statements of support and non-violence, and the moving rhetoric of many individual soldiers (I have no doubt many among them are on the side of the demonstrators) – it is clear whose side, as a body, they are ultimately taking. If they were going to turn against Mubarak, I believe they would have done so by now. It remains to hope that they will not turn against the people.
Watching Tahrir Square today on AJE was incredible – to think that two million turned out in Egypt, a country where it is rare to see more than a couple of hundred protesting at any one time, is moving and heartening. It is infuriating and heartbreaking to see that toad Hosny continue squatting on the presidency and state TV broadcasting pro-regime protests that, in the words of the Angry Arab, ‘look like some secret police members and their families gathered in a small parking lot.’ Hopefully the sha3b can keep up the momentum and force him out. Even if they don’t, this will have been hugely significant, and they will not have failed. For one thing, that cartoon meerkat Gamal Mubarak will never lead Egypt. And nothing will ever be the same there again.
Once again: I hope I’m wrong. Egypt deserves better than that man and his gormless son. I hope I’m wrong.
P.S. to any Cambridge residents reading, please come along to Guildhall at 12 noon tomorrow for a solidarity vigil in support of the sha3b masri and all those in the Middle East fighting for democracy and an end to dictatorial regimes.