Monday, January 31, 2011

Mubarak bides his time, new showdown expected on Tuesday

Tahrir. (Photo Ramy Raoof)

 Protesters were still camping on Tahrir Square on Monday morning, and people started to move towards this central square, as a general strike is foreseen for Today. The April 6 movement, a movement that grew out of the January 25 protests, called for a 'march of the millions' to be held on Tuesday. On Sunday also Egypt's judges decided to join the protests.
The opposition parties decided to join ranks on Sunday and appointed a committee headed by Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency of The UN. ElBaradei on Sunday apeared among the protesters at Tahrir Square, an apearance which seemed to impress the international press more than the protesters as many Egyptians Twittered. Al Masry al-Youm reported that ElBaradei got a mandate to hold talks with the regime of Mubarak about a peaceful transition of power.  However, it was not yet clear which parties backed the intiative to form an interim government headed by ElBaradei. From some sides it was reported that among others the Muslim Brotherhood participated in the initiative, but this was not confirmed by the Brotherhood itself.
Also it is far from clear how much backing ElBaradei has from the people in the street.  ElBaradei is seen by many  as someone  who has been living too long in the West, with the Egyptian public at large he is rather unkwown. Also he did not play any role in te preparation of the protests. If the current movement has any leaders, then it might be the internet generation, the bloggers, young intellectuals and the people who called for the demonstrations to be held.    

 The ,leaders of the 'April 6 movement' at the press conference where they announced that Tuesday will be the day of the 'March of the millions'. (Photo Al-Masry Al-Youm) 

Mubarak, in the meantime, seems to bide his time. Apparently he is trying to rally the support of the army for his regime and hoping  that a hesitant West will help to keep him in power. On Sunday he made another appearance on State tv, where he was seen with his new prime minister, Amed Safiq, and some military men. CNN reports that  he gave a statement that  ''The current stage requires us to reorganize the country's priorities in a way that acknowledges the legitimate demands of the people.' Also he urged those charged with shaping the new Cabinet - specifically, the  newly appointed  Shafiq - to pursue 'a wide range of dialogue with all the (political) parties'. And that would 'achieve the democratic process.
Empty talks for  president who's hours in office are numbered, as few would doubt. Mubarak also resorted to  the same tactics as his deposed Tunisian collegue  Ben Ali in vain tried out, when  he blamed the clashes and looting that took place on Muslim fanatics:  'The citizens and the young people of Egypt have gone out to the streets in peaceful demonstration asking for their right for the freedom of speech. However, their demonstrations have been infiltrated by a group of people who use the name of religion who don't take into consideration the constitution rights and citizenship values, the tv quoted him as saying.

Grafitti on tank: Down with Mubarak, down with the regime. (Photo Ramy Raoof)

The situation  in the streets seems to be under control, in the meantime. The army has increased its presence, and installed checkpoint in several places in Cairo. Yesterday evening at the time the curfew, that was again massively igmored, had to take effect,  F-16's and helicopters flew over central Cairo in an apparent attempt to intimidate, and maybe testifying that also in ten army and airforce there is conusion about what to do. The police is back in the streets in limited numbers and seems to have orders not to shoot. Yesterday evening still some shooting was heard, but teh sources remained unclear. Neighbourhood guards are still on the alert.    

 Burned out headquarters of the ruling NDP party. (Photo Ramy Raoof)

The European ministers of Foreign Affairs Today have a meeting in Brussels where the situation in Egypt will be discussed. Israel has instructed its diplomatic staff to lobby in favor of maintaining the regime of Mubarak, thereby demonstrating that the 'only democracy' in the Middle East is actively trying to keep a dictator in power. In Washington more decision maker seem to rally to the conviction that Mubarak is doomed, but the offcial declarations don't go beyond the demand that 'reform is needed'.  

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