11 Feb 2011

Egypt: protests spread as Mubarak holds on

A senior aide to President Mubarak tells Lindsey Hilsum in Cairo that “the revolution won” and the President no longer has power. But the protesters pouring onto the streets appear to disagree.

Tahrir Square is mobbed as protesters show their anger that Mubarak is staying in power (Reuters)

Up to five million people could demonstrate across Cairo today, according to some reports, after President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday sparked rage and grief among the protesters by vowing to remain in power until elections in September rather than resigning immediately.

However, Secretary General of the ruling NDP party, Dr Hossam Badrawi, told Channel 4 News he stood by his statement on Thursday that President Mubarak had stood aside and passed power to his newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman, a former general and intelligence chief.

Dr Badrawi told International Editor Lindsey Hilsum: “The delivery of the speech was bad, because he spoke about himself and as if he is going to follow things up, but the reality is that he is not in power. Constitutional action is being taken.”

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He said that according to the constitution, if the President stepped down, there would have to be an election in 60 days.

“The solution is giving authority to the Vice-President,” he said.

The delivery of the speech was bad, because he spoke about himself and as if he is going to follow things up, but the reality is that he is not in power. Secretary General of President Mubarak’s NDP Party

“But this does not include changing any article of the constitution or appointing the Government. President Mubarak is out in all his powers apart from calling for a referendum on the constitution and also appointing the cabinet. The reality will stand. The message is clear and black and white. But the delivery did not give the right impression.”

He said there was a document that clarified that “full power is with the Vice-President”. He said the role of the army was “to keep the state intact and to guarantee the transfer of power in a constitutional way, but he did not deliver authority to the army.”

Lindsey Hilsum said: “Dr Badrawi stands by what he said to me yesterday. ‘The revolution won,’ he said. But this morning tens of thousands of Egyptians are going out on the streets of Cairo and huge demonstrations are expected after Friday prayers. So it seems that few Egyptians believe Dr Badrawi’s message that President Mubarak is really out of power.”

International Editor Lindsey Hilsum is outside the Heliopolis Sport Club where, after Friday prayer, the crowd is swelling. 

"The people are waving Egyptian flags and shouting for Mubarak to go," she said.

"They would like to march on the Presidential palace but their route is blocked. Three tanks, an armoured personnel carrier, and a lot of barbed wire. A few yards away, some other Egyptians have come out to watch and there are heated arguments going on between those who say it is time for the protests to end and those who say the protests must continue."


Thousands camped out in the square overnight and even more arrived through the early hours of the morning to join the protests. More action away from the main site of the protests is expected, with movement towards a number of other key locations in Cairo, including the Presidential Palace and the main state television headquarters, still under the control of the President.

The protesters are not heeding the statement from the Egyptian Army, urging them to return to work.

In a statement, the army said: “The army will end the emergency status law imposed on the country (over the last 30 years) as soon as the security situation calms down.”

It said it was “committed to guard the interests of the people by following up these procedures on time decisively and toughly until the peaceful transfer of power is achieved” and stressed that free elections would be carried out in the light of constitutional amendments.

It will not “chase those who demanded reforms and refused corruption and warned any one against violating the security of the nation and the people.”

The Egyptian President announced in a televised address on Thursday evening that, despite thoughts he was about to leave office, he was “adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the constitution and safeguard the interests of the people…until power is handed over to those elected in September by the people in free and fair elections.”

The statement sparked anger in the huge Cairo crowds that had continued to grow in Tahrir Square throughout the day and early evening. Thousands waved their shoes in the air and chanted “Down with Mubarak” once they realised the President had no intention of standing down.

The President told the nation he said he would stay in office to oversee a peaceful transition.Powers are to be transferred to Vice President Omar Suleiman, according to the constitution, to prove that the demands of protesters will be met by dialogue, President Mubarak said.

In his speech the President said Egypt was heading “day after day” to a peaceful transfer of power and he was committed to protect the constitution until that happens.

He said he was proposing amending a number of articles of the constitution and proposed cancelling article 179 giving powers regarding terrorism cases. He said dialogue with the opposition had led to a preliminary consensus to resolve the crisis.


On Friday, it appeared that the official website of President Mubarak’s NDP party had been hacked by protesters (see image below).

The website read: “Closed until dropping Mubarak and the regime.”

NDP website

Opposition leader, Mohammed ElBaradei warned on his Twitter page: “Egypt is about to explode. Army must save the country now.”

Egypt is about to explode. Army must save the country now Opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei on Twitter

Mr Mubarak’s actions were also condemned by US President Barack Obama.

“The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient.The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity,” he said.

Following his statement, Mr Obama called a meeting with his national security team. Egypt has long been one of the United States’ most prized ally in the Middle East, giving over $1.3bn (£800m) in military aid annually.

Channel 4 News US Correspondent Sarah Smith has taken a closer look at how the relationship between the US and Egypt has developed over the last 24 hours.