Egypt awaits Mubarak departure

Support for embattled president crumbles within National Democratic Party

 Flames of Rage: People gather outside the local government headquarters which was set on fire by protesters in Port Said, Egypt, on Thursday. APAcross the political spectrum, many wondered whether that posture had shifted.

“We’re excited and nervous,” said Ahmed Sleem, an organiser with an opposition group led by Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate. “If Mubarak and Suleiman leave, it would be a great thing. A six-month deadline for elections would be suitable.”

Asked about the possibility of a military takeover, he said he was not afraid. “We know how to force them to step down. We know the way to Tahrir Square.”
The prospect of a military takeover was also raised by Badrawy.

“That’s an option,” he said. “That can happen. I don’t like it. I’d like to see a civil structure for the state. I would like to see the army do its part to keep the country safe until we go back to normal and not military rule.”

The military’s supreme council held a meeting on Thursday. A spokesman read a statement that the council was in permanent session to explore “what measures and arrangements could be made to safeguard the nation, its achievements and the ambitions of its great people.”

“Today, Thursday the 10th of February of the year 2011, a meeting was held to discuss the developments of the situation.. It is decided that a meeting will convene continuously to look into what measures and procedures to be taken to maintain the homeland and the achievements and the aspirations of the great people of Egypt,” it said.

Even before the military stepped in, support seemed to be crumbling for Mubarak within his own ruling party and government, as protesters called for the biggest demonstrations on Friday since the uprising began on January 25. Hossam Badrawy, the newly appointed secretary-general of the ruling National Democratic Party, said Mubarak appeared to accept his call to peacefully transfer power to the vice president.

He said he expected the president to speak Thursday night.
“I hope he would say that he has respect for the people and that he has asked for a constitutional amendment that guarantees a peaceful transfer of power and that he will give authority as president to the vice president. I hope this heads to early elections for the presidency so the state and people can move to another era. That is what I hope he says. That is what I’ve requested him to do,” Badrawy said.

He called Mubarak “very accommodating.”
“I know it is difficult for him,” he said. But he added, “I think I convinced him to do that as soon as possible.”

The dramatic developments came on the 17th day of the Egypt uprising, bolstered by strikes and protests among professional groups in Cairo and workers across the country. A senior official in Mubarak’s embattled government was quoted as saying the army would “intervene to control the country” if it continued to devolve into chaos.

As tension built ahead of Friday’s planned mass protests, thousands of chanting lawyers in black robes and physicians in white laboratory coats marched into Tahrir Square to join the clamour for Mubarak’s ouster.

Engineers and journalists also headed for the square on Thursday as the numbers there began to swell once again into the thousands. The army has also deployed tanks and reinforcements across the city, setting up a narrow access point to the square.

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