President Hosni Mubarak’s midnight speech did make fewer concessions but it had no promise for restive Egyptians. He merely addressed old guards and had perhaps forgotten it was not the era of Old Guards but internet literate youth which had united against Old order. Hosni Mubarak though accepted a sensible advise from Washington for ‘Peaceful Orderly Transition”. But under old styled parliamentary system which has been rejected by majority of Egyptians.
His speech had nothing to offer for suppressed Egyptians but an attempt to save his supporters within the Egyptian Establishment. What he said and promised was instantly rejected by his opponents. Excerpts from his speech:
“I talk to you during critical times that are testing Egypt and its people which could sweep them into the unknown.
“The country is passing through difficult times and tough experiences which began with noble youths and citizens who practice their rights to peaceful demonstrations and protests, expressing their concerns and aspirations but they were quickly exploited by those who sought to spread chaos and violence, confrontation and to violate the constitutional legitimacy and to attack it.
“Those protests were transformed from a noble and civilized phenomenon of practicing freedom of expression to unfortunate clashes, mobilized and controlled by political forces that wanted to escalate and worsen the situation. “They targeted the nation’s security and stability through acts of provocation, theft and looting and setting fires and blocking roads and attacking vital installations and public and private properties and storming some diplomatic missions.
“We are living together painful days and the most painful thing is the fear that affected the huge majority of Egyptians and caused concern and anxiety over what tomorrow could bring them and their families and the future of their country. “The events of the last few days require us all as a people and as a leadership to chose between chaos and stability and to set in front of us new circumstances and a new Egyptian reality which our people and armed forces must work with wisely and in the interest of Egypt and its citizens.
“Dear bothers and citizens, I took the initiative of forming a new government with new priorities and duties that respond to the demand of our youth and their mission. I entrusted the vice-president with the task of holding dialogue with all the political forces and factions about all the issues that have been raised concerning political and democratic reform and the constitutional and legislative amendments required to realize these legitimate demands and to restore law and order. But there are some political forces who have refused this call to dialogue, sticking to their particular agendas without concern for the current delicate circumstances of Egypt and its people.
In light of this refusal to the call for dialogue and this is a call which remains standing, I direct my speech today directly to the people, its Muslims and Christians, old and young, peasants and workers, and all Egyptian men and women in the countryside and city over the whole country. I have never, ever been seeking power and the people know the difficult circumstances that I shouldered my responsibility and what I offered this country in war and peace, just as I am a man from the armed forces and it is not in my nature to betray the trust or give up my responsibilities and duties.
“My primary responsibility now is security and independence of the nation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in circumstances that protect Egypt and the Egyptians and allow handing over responsibility to whoever the people choose in the coming presidential election. I say in all honesty and regardless of the current situation that I did not intend to nominate myself for a new presidential term. I have spent enough years of my life in the service of Egypt and its people. I am now absolutely determined to finish my work for the nation in a way that ensures handing over its safe-keeping and banner … preserving its legitimacy and respecting the constitution.
“I will work in the remaining months of my term to take the steps to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. According to my constitutional powers, I call on parliament in both its houses to discuss amending Article 76 and 77 of the constitution concerning the conditions on running for presidency of the republic and it sets specific a period for the presidential term. In order for the current parliament in both houses to be able to discuss these constitutional amendments and the legislative amendments linked to it for laws that complement the constitution and to ensure the participation of all the political forces in these discussions, I demand parliament to adhere to the word of the judiciary and its verdicts concerning the latest cases which have been legally challenged.
“I will entrust the new government to perform in ways that will achieve the legitimate rights of the people and that its performance should express the people and their aspirations of political, social and economic reform and to allow job opportunities and combating poverty, realizing social justice.
“In this context, I charge the police apparatus to carry out its duty in serving the people, protecting the citizens with integrity and honor with complete respect for their rights, freedom and dignity. I also demand the judicial and supervisory authorities to take immediately the necessary measures to continue pursuing outlaws and to investigate those who caused the security disarray and those who undertook acts of theft, looting and setting fires and terrorizing citizens. “This is my pledge to the people during the last remaining months of my current term. “I ask God to help me to honor this pledge to complete my vocation to Egypt and its people in what satisfies God, the nation and its people.
“Dear citizens, Egypt will emerge from these current circumstances stronger, more confident and unified and stable. And our people will emerge with more awareness of how to achieve reconciliation and be more determined not to undermine its future and destiny. “Hosni Mubarak who speaks to you today is proud of the long years he spent in the service of Egypt and its people. This dear nation is my country, it is the country of all Egyptians, here I have lived and fought for its sake and I defended its land, its sovereignty and interests and on this land I will die and history will judge me and others for our merits and faults.
“The nation remains. Visitors come and go but ancient Egypt will remain eternal, its banner and safekeeping will pass from one generation to the next. It is up to us to ensure this in pride and dignity’.
Hosni Mubarak offered dialogue. Dialogue over what Old Order or preparation for new system of representation. As the situation in Egypt escalates, Hosni Mubarak and Barack Obama have made what sounded like co-ordinated statements offering a road map for a transitional period towards new elections. The US president reportedly asked his Egyptian counterpart not to take part in the next elections, thus lowering the expectations of those hoping for a quick and prompt resignation.
Mubarak’s speech showed a president in denial over his legacy, blaming certain harmful policies for the ills of Egypt and proposing to change them while neglecting to take responsibility for them and for the many other failures and violations of his regime. He also didn’t express regret, let alone take responsibility, for the more than 200 people killed over the last few days.
Mubarak offered the boiling street a few concessions, promising to not to run again for office, changes to the constitution relating to the presidency, and speeding accountability of corrupt leaders and reversing the “discrepancies” of the last elections etc.
On the other hand, he held the leaders of the uprising responsible for the escalation on the streets, and threatened to prosecute those responsible. Threatening all that, it’s either him or instability and chaos. However, judging from his record, the president will not be trusted. While a few might buy into his promises of transition to democracy, many take only his threats seriously.
Not Obama, who praised the Egyptian military and asked Mubarak to start the transition now rather than later. The U.S. president has been playing catch-up with events in Egypt and elsewhere, trying to maintain U.S. relevance as breath taking events shape the Arab world and the region.
But it will be difficult to maintain the double sweet talk for a long time, especially if escalation begins and the idea of transition under Hosni Mubarak proves as expected to be more problematic that without him.
If the leaders of the uprising maintain their ultimatum to Hosni Mubarak, either he will be leaving by Friday or they will be marching to the presidential palace. Expect the situation to deteriorate further. In short strong Egyptian Army provided a graceful opportunity to Hosni Mubarak to exit but stubborn General, in his wisdom, made a futile effort to buy time. It remained the case of TOO LITTLE TOO LATE.