Thousands of protesters In Tahrir Square broke into song after grueling days of protesting President Hosni Mubarak, demonstrating that they are maintaining their energy levels and optimism. The Egyptian Arabic press is reporting that there are a million protesters nationwide, the majority of whom are working class citizens. Their dedication to their cause is paying off, as Reuters reports that opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has told Al Jazeera that he might run for president “if the Egyptian people want me.”
Over the past week, the protesters have been faced with mounting challenges but just as many successes; for example, the Egyptian military called off the Egyptian police who were attacking protesters. This perhaps unexpected support reveals the very complicated internal dynamics of Egyptian power and the success of the uprising against Mubarak. The police forces (al-shurta) are run by the Interior Ministry which was very close to Mubarak whereas the Central Security Services (Amn al-Markazi) were supposed to function originally as the private army of Mubarak, but they have had their own uprisings of sorts in asking for better pay. These are the folks we saw the protesters disarm with peaceful actions.
Adding to the complexity of the dynamics, the Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt are having their own split, based in part upon the fact that they’ve morphed into national businessmen more than a military, having been rather bought off by the United States — paid not to fight, basically — as a result of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signing the Camp David Accords with Israel and the United States. Many in the military resent the aid the US sends and would prefer to assert themselves.
It is amidst these internal power shifts and jockeying for position that the protests are taking place. With such a huge power vacuum suddenly exposed and warring agendas among the military, police and protesters, I find it amazing that the protests have been as peaceful as they have been. The Egyptian protest is going to make a fascinating study one day about the methods of protesting, as protesters have been remarkable successful while mostly non-violent so far. Certainly, the complex behind-the-scenes changes in political winds have a lot to to with their success, but this kind of dedication is remarkable nonetheless.
Some of the best news for the protesters came last night as Reuters reported that ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency and currently an opposition leadership figure, might be willing to run for President. He appears to be the choice of the United Democratic Front in Egypt, which has asked him to serve as interim president. However, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has suggested that ElBaradei may be pursued by security forces and already several activists have been arrested after leaving his home. The Prime Minister said, “‘If any were rounded up, that’s because they had been visiting a man who has been very irritating to us and is tracked by state security at the moment.’ Shafiq did not name ElBaradei, however Egyptian authorities had on Thursday arrested seven activists from the National Association for Change as they were leaving Elbaradei’s home.”
Another positive sign for the protesters is the possibility that popular Arab League chief Amr Mussa, a former foreign minister, could be considering a run for President. Mussa however could signal a negative change in Egypt’s relationship with Israel as his popularity stems in part from his strong stands against Israel. “If he were to run for president one day, in a free vote, he would be a sure-fire winner,” said one of the diplomats in Cairo where the Arab League has its base.
Friday was dubbed the “Day of Departure” by the Egyptian protesters; an attempt to force President Hosni Mubarak to resign amid continuing threats and violence against protesters. As the video signals, the protesters’ spirits and commitment remain inspiring and hopeful.