Mubarak Says Transferring Power to VP, But Keeps Title
Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak announced Thursday he was handing his powers over to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, and ordered constitutional amendments.
But the move means he retains his title of president and ensures regime control over the reform process, falling short of protester demands.
Hopes had run high that Mubarak would step down immediately after the military leadership had announced hours earlier that it would step in to ensure the country's security and see that the people's "legitimate" demands were met.
Protesters in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, hoping he would announce his resignation outright, watched in stunned silence to his speech, slapping their hands to their foreheads in anger, some crying or waving their shoes in the air in a sign of contempt.
After he finished, they resumed their chants of "Leave! Leave! Leave!"
"I have seen that it is required to delegate the powers and authorities of the president to the vice president as dictated in the constitution," Mubarak said near the end of a 15-minute address on state TV.
The article is used to transfer powers if the president is "temporarily" unable to carry out his duties and does not mean his resignation.
"I am conscious of the dangers of this crossroad ... and this forces us to prioritize the higher interests of the nation."
He went on to take an apparent swipe at the United States and other countries that have pushed him to accelerate a transition to democracy, saying: "I have never bent to foreign diktats.
"I have always preserved peace and worked for Egypt and its stability."
Mubarak said he would stay in the country and that he is "adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the Constitution and safeguard the interests of the people ... until power is handed over to those elected in September by the people in free and fair elections in which all the guarantees of transparencies will be secured."
Mubarak said that the demands of protesters for democracy are just and legitimate, but he adhered tightly to a framework for reform that Suleiman drew up and that protesters have roundly rejected, fearing it will mean only cosmetic change.
He said he had requested the amendment of five articles of the constitution to loosen the now restrictive conditions on who can run for president, to restore judicial supervision of elections, and to impose term limits on the presidency.
The defiant leader also annulled a constitutional article that gives the president the right to order a military trial for civilians accused of terrorism.
He said that step would "clear the way" for eventually scrapping a hated emergency law that gives police virtually unlimited powers of arrest, but with a major caveat — "once security and stability are restored."