Hosni Mubarak steps down: The Egyptian president's tenure started abruptly, ends abruptly
Friday, February 11, 2011; 3:35 PM
Hosni Mubarak has stepped down from power and resigned the office of the Egyptian Presidency:
The announcement of Mubarak's resignation came after a series of grudging concessions that failed to mollify protesters, who wanted his immediate departure. He announced last week that he would not run for reelection this fall and that his son, Gamal Mubarak, would not succeed him. Thursday night, Mubarak struck a defiant tone as he told the nation that he would remain in office but cede some powers to Suleiman. Throngs of people immediately rejected the idea and gathered in public squares across the country, their anger and frustration mounting.
"Mubarak must go! He is finished!" protesters in Tahrir Square shouted. "Oh, Mubarak, be patient! The people will dig your grave."
Friday morning, Egypt's military chiefs pledged to back Mubarak's decision to remain in office and hand over some powers to Suleiman. The supreme military council said it would guarantee "free and honest" elections after Mubarak's term expires, and a lifting of Egypt's 30-year-old state of emergency once calm returned to the streets. The military chiefs encouraged protesters to go home, citing the need to "return to normal life."
Instead, the protests that have raged here for 18 days only grew, and there were repeated signs that the soldiers posted on the streets to watch over the demonstrations supported the protesters' efforts.
The abrupt ending of his tenure comes nearly 30 years after Mubarak first came to power:
At 53, Mubarak was violently thrust into the presidency. On Oct. 6, 1981, he was seated to Sadat's right viewing a military parade when four militant Islamists leaped from a parade jeep and ran into the stand, where one shot Sadat dead.
Mubarak, who suffered a minor wound on his left hand, announced Sadat's death on television a few hours later. The ruling National Democratic Party quickly nominated Mubarak as its presidential candidate, and he ran unopposed in a national referendum October 13.
The next day, Mubarak was sworn in as Egypt's fourth president since the monarchy was overthrown by a military coup in 1952. Tears running down his cheeks, he promised to follow Sadat's policies, adding, "This is my fate to stand before you in his absence. ... The greatest tribute we can pay him is to follow his course."
For most Egyptians, their new president was a relative unknown, and his low-key style sparked many jokes about his competence to lead. Coming after two charismatic Egyptian leaders who helped reshape the modern Middle East, Mubarak was seen by many as colorless, known for a dependable, disciplined and common sense demeanor. But in a region of many unwanted fireworks, his predictability was a soothing balm - as was the colloquial Egyptian slang that peppered his speech and reminded of his modest beginnings.
"I didn't ask to be President," he told an interviewer in 1982. "I just accepted because it is in the interest of the country - not for the fame of being President." If it was an earnest sentiment at the time, he gradually came to view himself as indispensable to the country's survival - a circumstance he perhaps encouraged by never following Sadat's example and appointing a vice president, or making clear a transition plan.
In 1999, he spoke of how he had been "hesitant to continue" in the job, but felt that if he left office "thieves would find a good opportunity to make destruction." The same conceit was apparent a decade later when he tried to cling to power despite massive public protests. Mubarak was "reelected" four times over his tenure, though in each case the requisite referendum was pro forma: in only one, in 2005, did his ruling party allow an opponent to run, and the man ended up in jail on election fraud charges.
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