On Thursday morning, rumors were circulating that Egyptian President Husni Mubarak may potentially deliver his resignation on State Television. Media outlets confirmed that the Egyptian Army had told the people their “demands would be met” and the continuous repetition of a top CIA official confirming the rumor. Egyptians watched with utter shock and dismay when President Mubarak babbled on about how he would pass powers to his Vice President Omar Soleiman and continue to stay until the September elections.
Has Mubarak played a deaf ear to his people? By continuing to reign as a lame duck president — metaphorically a pharaoh to the Egyptian people — he is insulting them. Why would any politician in their right mind want to stay, when everyone is calling for his ouster?
In less than twenty-four hours, it seemed that President Mubarak had had a change of heart. Vice President Suleiman made the announcement on State Television that President Mubarak had resigned and handed control to the Egyptian military. Egyptians took the streets to rejoice as they celebrated the fruit of their eighteen-day plight against a toppled dictator.
There is no telling yet why Mubarak decided to step down a day after his speech. The popular story is that the army took him down in a military coup, reminiscent to 1952. There is reason to believe he was resigning during his speech the night before, but grew cowardly last minute due to his pride. Maybe a last minute bargaining chip was made? Many questions remain unanswered.
As Egypt starts a new era, it is unclear what will be happening to the Arab world’s most populous nation. How much instability might be occurring in Egypt is still not known. However, what is known is that the replacement of Mubarak by military rule dissolved Egypt’s 1971 Constitution.
The Constitution only states two scenarios for an Egyptian president to relinquish his/her duties. First, if a president steps aside temporarily, the vice president must take over. This is what precisely took place Thursday evening. Second, if the job of president is permanently disabled or vacated, the Speaker of the Parliament must assume the role until new elections are held. These elections must occur within 60 days. Further, if all power is assumed by the military, the regime has rendered the constitution ineffective. Which is accurately what took place Friday evening.
As President Obama said, authorities in Egypt now need to consider “protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.”
While millions of Egyptians celebrate their success, it must be remembered that the hard work has only begun. With the country’s power in the hands of the military, there is no telling how easy or complicated this transition will come during the next four to seven months. Things could get worse before they get better. For now, only time will tell.