On Egypt’s first day in nearly 30 years without Hosni Mubarak as president, its new military rulers pledged Saturday to eventually hand power to an elected civilian government and outlined its first cautious steps in a promised transition to democracy. It reassured the world that it will abide by its peace deal with Israel.
The protesters who drove Mubarak out with an unprecedented 18-day popular uprising were still riding high on jubilation at their success. But they also began to press their vision for how to bring reform to a country where autocracy has pervaded the system from top to bottom for decades.
They also had an immediate question to resolve: Whether to continue their demonstrations.
A coalition of the movement’s youth organizers called for their massive protest camp entrenched for nearly three weeks in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to end, as a gesture to the military. Still, they called for large-scale demonstrations every Friday to keep up pressure for change. Others in Tahrir, however, insisted the constant protests should continue. With thousands still celebrating in the square, shooting fireworks in the air, there was no sign of significant numbers leaving.
At the same time, the coalition put forward their first cohesive list of demands for the next stage, focused on ensuring they — not just the military or members of Mubarak’s regime — have a voice in shaping a new democratic system.
Among their demands: lifting of emergency law; creation of a presidential council, made up of a military representative and two “trusted personalities”; the dissolving of the ruling party-dominated parliament; and the forming of a broad-based unity government and a committee to either amend or rewrite completely the constitution.
Tahrir, or Liberation, Square was the scene of wild partying all night long by Egyptians after the announcement Friday night that Mubarak had resigned and handed power to the military. Thousands streamed in during the day Saturday to continue celebrations.