Defying expectations, Hosni Mubarak has refused to step down before the September elections. The Egyptian autocrat tried to couch the demands for his ouster as a foreign-led movement, enraging tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square for the seventeenth straight day of demonstrations against his regime. Mubarak, calling his citizens “sons and daughters,” said he was committed to a transfer of power by means of “fair and square elections.” Mubarak acknowledged mistakes by his regime and promised “as soon as possible to hold accountable the people who committed them.” Minus himself, of course.
I have to respond to your calls, but I am also embarrassed and I will not accept to listen to any foreign interventions or dictations, regardless of their sources and regardless of their excuses and alibis. My dear sons and daughters, my dear citizens and brothers, I have told in many statements before that I will not nominate myself for the next presidential election and that I will be satisfied with what I have done to the country and the homeland for more than 60 days during the years of war.
Saying he had “never tried to have more authority,” Mubarak said he “delegated” powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman, stopping far short of the expected resignation. Mubarak emphasized that the “moment was not against my personality, against Hosni Mubarak,” and he ended his speech by saying that he would not leave Egyptian soil until he was “buried under it.”
As Mubarak’s speech wore on, “it was as though someone had flipped the switch as the crowd went from jubilation to extreme anger,” according to Al Jazeera’s live feed. Irate protesters are calling for the army, which has expressed its support, to take back the palace by force. “It’s just increasing their resolve.”
Update: CNN’s experts are currently arguing over what the delegation of power constitutes. Mubarak’s speech kept the language vague. The confusion stems from whether whatever power Suleiman was delegated makes a difference if Mubarak stays on as president. After Mubarak’s public address, Wolf Blitzer appeared confused why the rowdy crowd appeared happy and wondered if perhaps they hadn’t heard the speech. CNN’s correspondent in the square explained that they were actually angry.
During Suleiman’s speech, which followed Mubarak’s, the vice-president took aim at Al Jazeera: “Do not listen to the satellite television stations, listen only to your hearts.”
*Stay tuned to see if the White House responds.