A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tomorrow Could Be Critical

The clear mixture of disappointment and anger in Tahrir Square when Mubarak only transferred authority but did not resign suggest that tomorrow's demonstrations will be angrier than before. With what amounts to a general strike under way as well, tomorrow could in fact be particularly dangerous. Once again it appears as if Mubarak, and perhaps ‘Omar Suleiman as well, are not comprehending the situation and still assuming they can ride it out. A lot of people are comparing it to Ben Ali's third, "I have understood you," speech. (Ben Ali said he'd leave at the end of his term. He left the next day.)

Mubarak was also rather ambiguous about the delegation of powers. The Egyptian Ambassador to Washington has said that Suleiman has been given all Presidential authority, but that was not clear in the speech, at least not clear to the crowds in Tahrir. (Also, about three or four years ago a new round of constitutional amendments said the President cannot delegate the power to dissolve Parliament or amend the constitution to the Vice President.

The terms of the Military Council's "communique nunber one", and statements made to the demonstrators by senior military officials, certainly led the crowds to assume Mubarak would do more than they perceive him to have done. Now the crowds are furious. What is the Army thinking? Will there be a communique number two?

Tomorrow may hold some answers. People have had their hopes raised and then disappointed. They are angry. I'm reminded of the lines in Herman Melville's poem about the anger over the assassination of Lincoln:

There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand;
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand.

No comments: