Mubarak's defiance 'offensive, patronising'

| Feb. 11, 2011

Tens of thousands of protesters thronged Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo late Thursday, expecting to hear the 82-year-old strongman step down. Instead he delegated presidential power to vice president Omar Suleiman.

Mr Mubarak said he would remain nominally in charge until September and vowed he would one day die in Egypt rather than seek exile, infuriating protesters.

Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has warned his followers on Twitter that Egypt will explode and that the army must save the country now.

Angry demonstrators have vowed to launch their most spectacular protest yet in Cairo later today to demand the immediate departure of Mr Mubarak and his newly anointed deputy.

Ashraf Hegazy, the son of a senior Egyptian diplomat and executive director of the Dubai Initiative at Harvard University, says Mr Mubarak badly mishandled the situation.

"He is in defiance. He is clearly not listening to what the people are saying," he said.

"I think he has really painted himself into a corner where the military will have no option but to remove him, otherwise the people will march on the presidential palace tomorrow.

"They have called for a 20 million-person march, and if that happens that is a set-up for a major disaster tomorrow in terms of violence, clashes with the security forces and then the military will be forced to also intervene."

In his speech, Mr Mubarak acknowledged the protesters' efforts and promised the blood lost to the barricades would not be in vain. He also said he felt all of the pain they had felt and respected the call of youth for change.

"I am conscious of the dangers of this crossroad... and this forces us to prioritise the higher interests of the nation," he said.

He went on to take a swipe at the United States and other countries that have pushed him to accelerate a transition to democracy, saying: "I have never bent to foreign diktats."

Mr Hegazy says the president's comments were offensive and patronising.

"He is basically saying it was not his doing that people's lives were lost, that he had no hand in this, that his regime is not responsible, and yet he is continuing to not do what people are demanding of him," he said.

"His tone was really quite patronising. His referring to the youth as the children, he called himself the father."

Releasing a communique, the military has appeared to withdraw its support for Mr Mubarak. Mr Hegazy says the president is staring down the army, as well as the people.

"When [Mubarak] says he is not stepping down, I think the military will have to, in order to live up to the people's expectations, go in and remove him," he said.

"The soldiers in the military are all average Egyptians because almost every young man in Egypt has to do his national service.

"The military is really very much a part of the social fabric of society and I don't think soldiers would be willing to fire on unarmed civilians."

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For Academic Citation:

"Mubarak's defiance 'offensive, patronising.'" ABC News Australia, February 11, 2011.

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