Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would relinquish power after elections are held in the police state in September, but protesters insist he stepped down now.
“We will not leave! He will leave!” the Associated Press quoted some protesters as they renewed their calls for the octogenarian leader to quit. “We must be careful,” added another, “If Mubarak stays in power until September, he will punish us. He will torture us.”
Succumbing to pressure from Washington, the Egyptian army and the crowds on the streets, Mubarak in a 10-minute televised statement said he wanted to stay until the end of his current presidential term insisting he would ensure a peaceful transition of power to his successor.
“My first priority is to restore peace and stability in our country, to ensure the peaceful transition of leadership, and to ensure that the responsibility goes to whomever the people of Egypt choose in the next election. I do not intend to stand for election again,” he said.
Despite Mubarak’s remorse and vow to welcome elections in which he would not participate, leader of the democratic opposition Mohammed ElBaradei said Mubarak’s move is a “trick.”
In an interview with CNN, ElBaradei said he wants Mubarak to step down immediately and to hand over power to a caretaker government until elections can be held.
ElBaradei’s sentiments were echoed by protesters in Cairo.
“The speech is useless and only inflames our anger. If Mubarak was not going to run for a sixth term, why did he not say it before? Why does he leave the people hanging… We will continue to protest.” one protester, Shadi Morkos, is quoted as saying.
Washington has called for the transition of power to begin straight away which would include opposition voices, and lead to free and fair elections. The US would “continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt” and provide assistance.
“What is clear and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now,” President Barack Obama said after speaking to Mubarak on phone.
Mubarak will however not be fleeing the country like his Tunisian counterpart Ben Ali. In his speech he assured Egyptians he would die in Egypt.
“This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I will die on its soil,” he said.