Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in an address broadcast on state television Jan. 28 said that he has dissolved the government and will form a new government Jan. 29. In other words, Mubarak is not stepping down.
Changing the political face of the government is unlikely to pacify Egyptian protesters. Mubarak is undoubtedly the primary target of the demonstrations. The crisis in Egypt is thus far from over. The military still appears to be the main power broker in the country, and Mubarak’s fate is likely in the hands of his generals. Mubarak’s appeal to stay and the hours-long delay in making this speech could be a negotiated step between the two sides, but the potential for more direct and overt military intervention remains extremely high. Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Sami Annan is expected to return to Cairo by Jan. 29 and next steps by the military are likely to be discussed then.
The announcement was strategically made in the middle of the night in Egypt to give time for troops to take position. The military’s interaction with the demonstrators will need to be watched closely. So far, the military has been able to move into the cities and has been welcomed by the protesters without employing the more heavy-handed tactics of the internal security forces. What order they imposed came not from violence but from the perception that they would enable the demonstrators to bring down Mubarak.
If the military is now physically backing the regime, confrontations between demonstrators (whose grievance is ultimately with Mubarak) and the military forces is likely to turn more violent in the hours ahead.