Mubarak Made The Wrong Decision
The last time Egyptian protestors backed down from as strong of a show of a force as they have displayed during the past 17 days, they left the country to suffer 57 years of oppression.
The revolution, experts, the media and the White House said, is growing rather than dying. And President Hosni Mubarak's third refusal to step down pitches an international uproar into cataclysmic territory.
The protestors—a mix of middle and upper class, laborers, government employees, Western-educated young adults and Egyptian students—are not getting bored. Restlessness pervades a revolution led by the Facebook generation. It demands quick action from the government, but President Hosni Mubarak has moved only in bits and pieces to appease them.
The protests continue to swell. Workers returned to their jobs during the day this week, but joined the protests after dinner and evening prayers. On Friday, they plan for their largest demonstration of "rage" yet. Mubarak still seems bent on not caving.
The growth of the protests this week concerned both the government and the anti-government coalition.
“The more decentralized the protests becomes, the more you don't know what will happen,” said Hussam Salama, a research fellow at Harvard University's Dubai Initiative, earlier this week.
About 14 days have passed since the government picked up on the severity of the unrest. Vice President Omar Suleiman assembled reform committees, supported the re-opening of some banks and made some other promises. Actions on paper and actions on words won't be enough for anyone who knows even a little about President Gamal Nasser's failure to keep his promises back in 1952.
Not even a floundering economy is derailing the protestors.
“Whatever losses we had these few days is nothing compared to the corruption of the past 30 years,” Salama said. “It's nothing, not a fraction. The economy will be great once change happens.”
The protestors in Tahrir Square have erected their own city, founding their own mini-economy. They have security guards, newspaper boys, entertainers, cleaners and bearers of food.
For the first time this week, many moved from Tahrir to the parliament building. They clashed with the army, which most Egyptians regard higher than other element in the country. That fondness may be declining. A large-scale confrontation with the army is perhaps the main reason the protestors have never showed any efforts to march toward the presidential palace where Mubarak resides. Sparing themselves of the four-mile trek may help keep them energized as well. Overall, there simply aren't any signs that they would wear out.
Mubarak's refusal to resign is the wrong call despite worries that it would trigger a special election as quickly as March under the stringent old election rules.
He's right in saying without him the country will be in chaos, but the chaos with him in office is rivaling those worries. In the coming days, the anti-Mubarak will have to coalesce, find a handful of spokespeople and leaders they can stand behind.