Crest Fallen Protesters March Again Against Mubarak

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a speech Thursday night that he would not resign. Shadi Hamid, of the Brookings Institution, tells Steve Inskeep that the celebratory mood of protesters in Cairo quickly became tense after Mubarak announced he would only transfer some powers to the vice president.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's look more closely at developments in Egypt this morning. We go to Cairo to talk to Shadi Hamid. He's based in the Middle East for the Brookings Institution.

And Mr. Hamid, where have you been today?

Mr. SHADI HAMID (Brookings Institution): Earlier today, I was at the presidential palace, just outside of it, where there were about 200 protestors. The military was blocking them from going any closer.

Right now, I'm outside of Midan Tahrir, where crowds are piling into the square. You know, we're at least at tens of thousands now, probably more. Seems like today, it's picking up. And, you know, there's a lot of tension in the air today, maybe in contrast to (technical difficulties) gatherings.

INSKEEP: There was much excitement yesterday. And today, you're saying the atmosphere is tense.

Mr. HAMID: Exactly. I mean, the mood yesterday was really one of jubilation, even celebration. People really thought that this was the end, that Mubarak was finally stepping down. It came as a shock to everyone.

I think Egypt today is really in a state of surprise and shock. And they're - people are trying to make sense of what happened, where you had the military saying one thing early in the day - that all the demands of the protestors would be met - and then seeing Mubarak's speech later that night, where almost none of the demands were met.

So it's hard to understand, really, what happened, but there were clearly a lot of backroom negotiations between the military and regime officials, including Mubarak himself.

INSKEEP: Well, the military has come out with another statement today, headlined communique number two. And this statement says, among other things, that the military confirms the lifting of the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances end. That seems to be a promise to lift a draconian law that allows arbitrary arrests and other things, lifting that law that's been in place for decades, if people go home. Is that how you understand the military's statement?

Mr. HAMID: Well, it's not looking very good for the protestors. They're not explicitly siding with the regime, but it definitely seems that the military is closer to that side than the protestors. I mean, I think there was really hope that the military would shift sides and really back what the protestors are asking for. This communique suggests that's not the case.

And to say that the emergency law would be lifted, that's all great, but that's one demand out of many, many more demands. And there's also an implicit bargain there that people have to go home, they have to stop protesting. And then and only then will they get one of the things that they want.

So I don't really see that as being, you know, a big step in the right direction - at least not as far as the protestors are concerned.

INSKEEP: Just yesterday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Noble Prize winner, was saying Egypt must be saved by the army, suggesting perhaps that he wanted the army to take affirmative steps here. Is the army losing credibility as time goes on?

Mr. HAMID: Here's the thing. I mean, a lot of the euphoria about the army from day one has been misplaced. I think people are getting the Egyptian military wrong.

The military has always been part of the regime here, and has supported the Mubarak regime for the last 30 years. And now to expect them to totally turn 180 degrees and have a totally different position, I think, is unrealistic. The military benefits from the status quo. They enjoy enormous economic privileges in the country, and they don't want to lose that status.

So we're not talking about a pro-democracy organization here. And I think that's why people, you know, people are starting to get disappointed. And the military's credibility was damaged yesterday, because they promised one thing, but failed to deliver. So I think we're going to start to see a reassessment of the military's role in Egypt.

INSKEEP: OK. Mr. Hamid, always a pleasure to speak with you.

Mr. HAMID: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: Shadi Hamid is with the Brookings Institution. He's in Cairo today.

This is NPR News.

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