Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is reportedly stepping down. Gen. Hassan al-Roueini has told thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square that “All your demands will be met today.” Associated Press says Mubarak will address the nation tonight.
The New York Times does not exactly interpret the news as a victory for democracy:
CAIRO — Egypt’s armed forces on Thursday announced that they had begun to take “necessary measures to protect the nation and support the legitimate demands of the people,” a step that suggested the military intends to take a commanding role in administrating the strife-torn nation.
There was no immediate confirmation that the army intended to replace the government named by President Hosni Mubarak, but protesters gathered in Tahrir Square appeared to welcome reports that the military had replaced the civilian government they have steadfastly opposed.
Television images on Al Jazeera showed the masses in Tahrir Square cheering the news, waving flags and chanting: “The Army and the people in one hand.”
Vice President Omar Suleiman, named by Mr. Mubarak to undertake a dialogue with opposition groups, had warned Tuesday night that if the process he was supervising did not produce results, the military would step in to take administrative control in what he called a “coup.” There was no information about what role Mr. Suleiman or Mr. Mubarak would play in a military government.
Mubarak was — and is — a creature of the Egyptian military, as was his predecessor, Anwar Sadat. Now he is being replaced by that same military. Symbolically, that’s a big victory for the protesters. But we won’t know for months — and perhaps years — whether that translates into greater freedom and democracy for the Egyptian people. The ideal model would be that of Turkey, where the military played a critical long-term role in creating stability while allowing greater and greater democracy.
As a rule, however, military leaders in authoritarian countries don’t look kindly on the relative chaos that democracy entails. And once they have power, they have a way of growing too fond of it.
– Jay Bookman