The entire top leadership of Egypt's ruling party resigned on Saturday, marking yet another step forward for the pro-democracy movement, which is demanding an end to the 30-year-old regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
According to Egyptian state television, the President's son, Gamal Mubarak, has quit his party secretary-general post, formally burying what appeared at one time to be a well-honed dynastic succession plan. “The members of the executive committee resigned from their posts. It was decided to name Hossam Badrawi secretary-general of the party,” state TV announced.
After mobilising huge crowds on Friday and demonstrating that it continued to command popular support, Egypt's pro-democracy movement, from a position of strength, is now preparing for transition talks which, it hopes, will lead to national elections.
Analysts here say the opposition camp is wary of the possible re-mergence of another military-backed dictatorship once Mr. Mubarak departs. Apparently, a ?new power coterie, that includes at its core Vice-President Omar Suleiman, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Defence Minister Mohamed Tantawi, all having ?military backgrounds, has emerged in the wake of resilient pro-democracy protests, which entered the 12th day on Saturday.
The New York Times reports that efforts are on “to limit Mr. Mubarak's decision-making authority and possibly remove him from the presidential palace in Cairo — though not to strip him of his presidency immediately.” Once Mr. Mubarak acquires a figurehead role, a transitional government led by Mr. Suleiman could emerge, enabling negotiations with the opposition.
But aware that the military's role in a post-Mubarak dispensation should not be overwhelming, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has warned that in the initial rounds of negotiations for a political transition, the government should not field more than one representative from the military. He added, at a press conference at his home outside Cairo, that the military's primary task was to protect the people.
Mr. ElBaradei, who heads the opposition National Association for Change coalition, said a new council, with a maximum of five members, should be formed to run the country until elections were held. He added that the opposition's lawyers were also working on drafting an interim constitution.
Since Friday, Amr Moussa, a former Foreign Minister and now Arab League head, well connected to Egypt's power elite, has also emerged as a future presidential hopeful.
Meanwhile, at the Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the icon of the uprising, around 10,000 protesters continued to hold ground, though aware that the threat of attacks by Mr. Mubarak's supporters could not be ruled out. Yet, there were signs that the government had now geared itself to prevent street clashes. The military was fully deployed round the square, and the movements in and out of it were being carefully monitored.
The crowds cheered the ruling party resignations that were announced as one step forward in their campaign to see the end of the Mubarak regime.
Meanwhile, a journalist has died of injuries suffered in the January 29 clashes. Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud of the state-run al-Ahram is the first journalist to have died in the course of the uprising.
The media came under attack again on Friday, when Mr. Mubarak's supporters torched the Al-Jazeera bureau in Cairo and destroyed the equipment inside. Egyptian security forces later arrested the channel's Cairo bureau chief along with another journalist.
On Saturday, Egypt stopped pumping natural gas to Israel following an explosion in the main cross-border gas pipeline near Arish in the Sinai desert.