I was not necessarily surprised by the absence of a pro-Mubarak crackdown on this “Day of Departure” in Egypt, simply because of the masses of the crowd on hand. The thugs would have been outnumbered. I am surprised by the presence of government officials in Tahrir Square, in a supportive capacity:
Cracks in the Egyptian establishment’s support for President Hosni Mubarak began to appear Friday as jubilant crowds of hundreds of thousands packed the capitol’s central Tahrir Square to call for his ouster, this time unmolested by either security police or uniformed Mubarak loyalists [...]
Enthusiastic cheers rose up several times at the appearance of Amr Moussa, easily the most popular politician in Egypt and a major figure in its political establishment. He became famous as a straight-talking and charismatic foreign minister, until Mr. Mubarak moved him to the less threatening position of head of the Arab League.
Mr. Moussa never broke publicly with the president or ruling party, but an aide confirmed that Mr. Moussa’s decision to walk into the square was a tacit endorsement of the revolt, and in a television interview he opened the door to serving in a new government. “We want you, we want you,” crowds chanted.
Throughout the day demonstrators pulled out cellphone cameras to snap photos of well known actors, musicians and Islamic religious authorities who came to join them. Mohamed Rafah Tahtawy, the public spokesman for Al Azhar — the center of Sunni Muslim learning and Egypt’s highest, state-run religious authority — said he was resigning to join the revolt.
The current defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, showed up in the square today as well.
What’s more interesting is the jockeying over a post-Mubarak government. Mohammed ElBaradei suggested a five-member council to preside over the country until elections can be held, with only one of the five coming from the military. The Muslim Brotherhood announced they would not put up a candidate for President, seeking to tamp down the fear-mongering over an Islamist-led revolution.
This may be premature, as Mubarak has made no indication that he would step down before elections, try as the international community might to dislodge him. A planned international day of action by the labor movement for democracy in Egypt could help in bringing some of the more reticent governments off the sidelines, but I doubt it would have much force over Mubarak. After all, labor has organized general shutdowns throughout much of Egypt already, as I understand it.
But any fissures at the highest levels of the Egyptian government would be a good sign.