Egypt's Mubarak Says He Won't Run Again
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
Faced with massive demonstrations, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak bowed today to the pressure of the street. But he also remained defiant. While protesters have been demanding his immediate resignation and departure from Egypt, Mubarak insisted he would neither quit now nor leave.
President HOSNI MUBARAK (Egypt): (Through translator) I will die on the soil of Egypt and I will be judged by history for my merits and demerits.
SIEGEL: Mubarak was willing to make one major concession. He said he will not run for reelection when his current term ends next September. The concession, however, was greeted with derision by many of the protesters who were camping in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is there in Tahrir Square. And she joins us now. Lulu, what exactly did President Mubarak say tonight?
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, President Mubarak hedged his bets, pretty much. He basically said that he was not going to step down immediately. That is what the protesters have been demanding. Instead, he said he wanted a peaceful transition. He would not run again, after 29 years. He said he was not going to run in the September elections.
And the reason he said he was not stepping down immediately is because he said he wanted there to be stability and he wanted there to be a transition. A lot of pressure has been brought to bear on Hosni Mubarak. We know that the U.S. government dispatched former ambassador, Frank Wisner. He is an old friend of Hosni Mubarak's. And he basically took the message from the Obama White House that he should allow for a peaceful transition of power and that his days as president of Egypt are soon to be over.
SIEGEL: And how would you describe reaction among the demonstrators to Mubarak's announcement?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I think there's been mixed reaction. I did speak to someone earlier who said that this was enough, they didn't want to see more chaos engulf Egypt and Cairo.
However, I'm standing here in the middle of Tahrir Square, and there are demonstrators who are still camped out here this evening, who say that this is not enough. And one of them I have with me is Aida al-Qasha(ph). This is her fourth night sleeping out here on the square. Aida?
SIEGEL: Aida al-Qasha, what do you think about President Mubarak saying that he won't seek another term, is that enough for you?
Ms. AIDA AL-QASHA: Of course not because, first of all, that's not what we're asking. What we were asking was a total change of the whole regime, not just him. Second of all, in all cases, we didn't think that he was going to run again for elections because he's too old and he was going to die anytime soon anyways. So, that was not what we asked for.
And whether we succeeded or not, the guy is on his deathbed. So what we wanted to do is change the whole regime and not wait for him to die and then be in complete chaos that we don't have any control on. And that's why we're very frustrated because we need to change it now while he's alive and so that we could have the control on who to bring and to have fair elections.
And especially the vice president now, someone who's also from the military, he's part of the regime. And this is something that even here the protesters did not expect from the first day. So it's been very frustrating and he's acting like he didn't even hear what we've been doing or saying for the past week.
SIEGEL: Aida al-Qasha, tell me this, though, when you say there should be a new regime, for your own interest, what kind of a regime should that be? What do you hope to see next in Egypt?
Ms. AL-QASHA: First of all that it would be not a military or a police state but to be, like, a democratic civil society that is run by the people, that has fair elections, the wages should be much more higher. And every year everything. I can't tell you now because everything is just wrong in this current regime. Everything is so corrupt, everything is about the military, the police force or the businessman. And so it has to be completely changed from A to Zed.
SIEGEL: That's Aida Al-Qasha, she's 22 years old, a film director. She's in Tahrir Square, in Cairo with our Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. Is she typical of what you're hearing today, Lulu?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: She's certainly typical of the protesters who are really dedicated and want to stay here and really have not felt that they have had their voices heard.
We have seen the square empty out, though. So it remains to be seen tomorrow if people will come back, if they really have been made angry and they want to see Hosni Mubarak leave or if this is enough for them and they want these protests to end.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Cairo.
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