The last forty-eight hours or so of history have been somewhat of a roller coaster. Remember, if you will, BBC One’s 6 o’clock News on Thursday, when we all watched what was meant to be President Mubarak’s resignation speech. It wasn’t. Instead, the man who had been at the center of demonstrations against his rule for more than two weeks, renewed his promise not to stand for re-election in September. The protesters in Tahrir Square were literally jumping up and down with anger – and who could blame them? They had appeared so close to success and were now facing a long stand off and rule by a man who had lost all credibility.
The US reacted by withdrawing any support it had shown for Mubarak, thereby alienating itself from the only regime in the Middle East it had good relations with. This was a risky move, but the US is keen to be seen as pro-dimocracy, whatever that entails. This may have been a strong cause for what happened next.
Just a day after the previously mentioned announcement, President Mubarak stepped down. The news was broken to the people of Egypt by their Vice President, via a televised address. The crowds in Tahrir Square were given the news on loud speaker. They cheered and shouted, laughing and weeping in equal measure. Chants of ‘Egypt is free’ echoed around the capital. The demonstrators had succeeded in ending a thirty year rule in the course of eighteen days.
It was not just the consternation of the US that drove Mubarak out of power. His own army played a huge part in his downfall. The generals who had once helped him to power were starting to panic. Their soldiers on the ground were mostly on the side of the protesters and were therefore refusing to use force against them. The generals were at risk of losing control of their own men. The only way to avoid complete chaos was to regain credibility and give the protesters what they wanted. They forced Mubarak to temporarily hand over power to their High Council.
Now what? Well, Egypt must keep moving forwards. Protesters must return to work. Tourists must go back to holidaying in the country. If the economy does not stay reasonably steady, none of the Egyptian’s hopes will be achieved. The army are promising to uphold all of Egypt’s international agreements, including those with Israel. It is also promising to continue the move towards democracy. This is helping to reassure those within and outside the country. Hope is very much alive.