2.11.2011

Mubarak stays on: Key questions and answers

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak stunned protesters in Cairo and proved numerous reports wrong Thursday when he announced in a televised speech that he would not step down from the presidency or leave the country. (Latest developments)

Mubarak's surprising and confusing announcement raises numerous questions about what is happening in Egypt. Who is really in charge now—the military, Vice President Omar Suleiman or Mubarak?

Mubarak clearly has major political and institutional influence in the current political order — despite the upheaval — that continues to help him survive. Mubarak matters. Suleiman's influence is growing dramatically. Why did Mubarak not step down, as rumored?

What are the chances that Mubarak will remain in office until September?

The protesters and Mubarak are now on a very clear, potentially violent collision course. Mubarak's chances of remaining in power are mixed — and could be high depending on the willingness of the army to engage in serious confrontations against protesters. If Mubarak proceeds to violate these principles, the White House could be expected to ratchet up the stridency of its demands and help generate international disdain and concern for Mubarak. If there is a serious crackdown, Obama could then assert that Mubarak has violated the terms of his social contract with the nation and depart. But the White House must be humble and continue to articulate, as it has, that the results in Egypt are determined by the Egyptian people, not by the White House.

What role is the Egyptian military likely to play now?

The military still remains a key player in the future of Egypt's political system. If the military cracks down on the protesters, the institution's relationship with the public may be seriously undermined — leading to a potential civil war and serious violence. Right now, the military remains a key institution to watch, but its course and the decisions it is making about its place in a future Egyptian political order were put into doubt with Mubarak's decision not to leave the scene.

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