Euphoria Erupts In Tahrir Square As Mubarak Resigns, But What’s Next for Egypt?

The Friday night crowd filling Cairo’s Tahrir Square broke into thunderous cheers as Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on state television that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down as president and handed power to the military. In a very brief message, Suleiman said Mubarak “was passing on power to the Higher Council of the Armed Forces to run the affairs of the country.”  

“We have brought down the regime,” hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters chanted in celebration from Tahrir Square. Mubarak’s departure after 30 years of iron-clad rule marks a dramatic victory for the people’s movement that took root on January 25th  — the day anti-government protests started.

Officials say the 82-year-old Mubarak has left Cairo and is in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has a residence.

Mubarak’s sharp turn from the now infamous nationally televised speech last night when he vowed to stay in office until elections in September, was at least partially spurred on by the Egyptian military’s anger following his remarks. NBC’s Richard Engel reports the Egyptian military was so furious that senior military officers threatened ”to take off their uniforms and join the protesters.“

“This is a pivotal moment in history,” Vice President Joe Biden said earlier today during a visit to the University of Louisville in Kentucky. “We have said from the beginning the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people,” he continued.  

“Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than democracy will serve the day,” President Obama said moments ago. “Above all this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table…The U.S. will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt,” the President continued. “Today belongs to the people of Egypt.” 

Opposition leaders have begun to comment on today’s turn of events. As MSNBC reports:

Leading Egyptian democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, said Friday was “the greatest day of my life.”

“The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he told The Associated Press. He said he expected a “beautiful” transition of power.

A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest opposition group, said it was waiting to see what steps would be taken by the military’s Supreme Council, but also sounded a optimistic note.

“I salute the Egyptian people and the martyrs. This is the day of victory for the Egyptian people. The main goal of the revolution has been achieved,” Mohamed el-Katatni, former leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, told Reuters.

Another leading opposition figure, Ayman Nour, said he was looking forward to a transition period that would lead to a civilian government.

“This is the greatest day in the history of Egypt that will not be repeated. This nation has been born again. These people have been born again and this is a new Egypt,” he told Al-Jazeera.

Reaction from the region has begun to emerge as well. 

From the BBC:

There was jubilation throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including in Tunisia, where people overthrew their own president last month.

The secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, said events in Egypt presented an opportunity to build a national consensus.

Meanwhile, Iran described the recent events as a “great victory”.

A senior Israeli official expressed the hope that Mr Mubarak’s departure would “bring no change to its peaceful relations with Cairo”.

Reaction from other countries, too is starting to pour in as CNN reports:

China “understands and supports Egypt’s efforts to maintain social stability and restore normal order” and believes “that the affairs of Egypt should be decided by itself independently without intervention from the outside,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed Egypt’s “historic moment” and paid tribute to Hosni Mubarak’s decision to resign. France – which called for steps leading to free elections and reforms – urged Egyptians” to continue their non-violent march to freedom.”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Friday called the political change in Egypt an important development for the people and their democratic aspirations.

Optimism may reign supreme in Egypt today, but there is great uncertainty in terms of what will happen next. As difficult as it might have been to finally force Mubarak’s exit, it will likely be equally as hard to reconstitute the Egyptian government.

A representative from Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces read a statement on state television a short while ago, “saluting the sprit of those who were martyred, those who have sacrificed their souls for the freedom and security of their country,” in apparent reference to the pro-democracy demonstrators. MSNBC also points out the statement said the military cannot take place of a “legitimate” government and that the council will announce steps to “introduce the changes Egyptians want.”

The military has vowed to lift the 30-year-old emergency laws, and that it will not carry out any retribution against the protesters. It has also said it will ensure free and fair elections – still scheduled for September. In the meantime, the mechanism for a new government is still not in place. Vice President Suleiman’s role in the new government, for example, is still unclear.

It’s also unclear where U.S. foreign policy goes from here. As the situation in Egypt evolves in the coming days and weeks, part of the challenge will be charting a new Middle East policy in a post-Mubarak era.

Most Recent Care2 coverage on the Egyptian Protests:

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Could Mubarak Step Down Today?

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Revolution’s Softer Side: Tahrir Square Is a Stage for New Poetry and Performance

VP Suleiman Warns “We Can’t Put Up With Continued Protests,” Wael Ghonim Emerges As Voice Of Revolution

Inside Cairo’s Revolution



Photo courtesy of monasosh


nora b.
Mora b8 years ago

If the goal of the Brotherhood is to dominate, and if they are given a seat at the table, which , in the democratic spirit, they apparently will be, there are difficult days ahead. There is no growth without pain.

ewoud k.
ewoud k8 years ago

Just to keep the military from changing plans, and to ensure the continuum of the changes that are going on in Egypt we ALL must keep our eyes open and focussed on Egypt -and Tunesia BTW, same story- and keep the pressure on.

Don't let down the Egyptians, nor the Tunesians.

That those who paid for these revolutions didn't die in vain!

Thank you, from everywhere who supported these uprisings, but don't forget them now.

And let's keep our eyes open and follow what's happening in Algeria and Yemen.

Linda AWAY Be Back
Linda G8 years ago

For all those who fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will take over or that the final results will be gloomy... my money is on the Egyptian people who have shown peaceful determination, a desire to die for freedom, and a solid coming together of peoples of all backgrounds. They have been a shining example to the world... Muslims protecting Christians, Christians protecting Muslims and all defeating fear together.

The Eqyptian people are educated, full of history and culture and if any group tries to do anything other than meet their demands for a secular, free and open democracy, the people will rise up again and again as they know they can prevail.

I am uplifted and inspired by these amazing people. They are ready for the democracy that they want.

Robert Tedders
Robert T8 years ago

@Rob K.: Agreed!! Farewell Hosni, you shall not be missed!!

Alana M.
Alana Mawson8 years ago

Now comes the really hard part.
Good luck to the Egyptian people working towards a true Democracy. You've earned it!

Sound Mind
Ronald E8 years ago

Hope for the best - there is still some doubt being expressed whether or not Egypt is equipped to handle a real Democratic process in government. Look only to Wash. DC for the best example of total failure.

Karen & Edward O.
Karen and Ed O8 years ago

I hope the Egyptian people are seeing these messages of good wishes. If you are, rabbena ywaffa'ak, sidd Hailak!

Daithi O.
David Murray8 years ago

Algeria appears to be the next country in the fall of dominoes. The U.S. hasn't emerged too well from this.

Robert O.
Robert O8 years ago

Like I commented on another article. I'm very happy for the people of Egypt. Now that Mubarak is gone that's half the battle won. But it's the second half that's really going to be the gory part. This is the calm before the strom. Some people say that Egypt is not ready for democracy which I think is a load of bull. Maybe they’re not ready yet for a full scale westernized type of democracy and all the complications that come with it, but they’re ready for some type of democracy. It’s just that people like Mubarak and groups like the Muslim Brotherhood aren’t ready for it and don’t want others to be. I have a sinking feeling that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to swoop in and take over thus plunging Egypt into an 11th century mentality and with that they can kiss any dreams of a real democracy goodbye. I shudder to think of that happening and leaving the people of Egypt to end up longing for the good old days of Mubarak. As bad as he was there's always worse out there. We'll just have to wait and see how this plays out. Until then it's one step at a time, one day at a time. I wish them all the best.

Becky Y.
Rebecca Y8 years ago

We learned on Friday, January 11, 2011, that FREEDOM is not just a word in the dictionary!