The top figure in Egypt’s new military regime, Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, drove past Hosni Mubarak’s former palace on Friday and saluted cheering crowds.
Tantawi heads Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a committee of military chiefs who assumed control of the country earlier in the evening when Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak’s resignation as president.
Crowds who had been protesting — then celebrating — outside Mubarak’s presidential palace recognised 75-year-old Tantawi as he was driven past the scene in a civilian SUV escorted by two car-loads of bodyguards.
When they moved to cheer and congratulate him, he stopped briefly and got out to thank and hail the crowds before driving on.
Most of those protesting against Mubarak’s rule have welcomed the military takeover, after hearing promises that it would guarantee a reform programme that would eventually lead to free and fair elections.
Tantawi is a veteran of five wars with Israel, but the Egyptian army’s most important sponsor, the United States, believes he “is committed to preventing another one ever”, according to a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks.
According to the same March 2008 cable, Tantawi, while “charming and courtly”, is also “aged and change-resistant”, in a view that might give those hoping for a new champion of democracy pause for thought.
“He and Mubarak are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time. They simply do not have the energy, inclination or world view to do anything differently,” the cable warned.
Following Suleiman’s announcement, Tantawi’s Supreme Council insisted that it would not seek to substitute its will for that of the people, but it has not yet laid out a timetable for a return to civilian rule.
Hosni Mubarak: A timeline of his 30-year rule
- October 6 1981 — Vice-President Hosni Mubarak is thrust into office when Islamists gun down President Anwar Sadat at a military parade. He is approved as president in a referendum in November and re-elected in October 1987 and October 1993.
- June 26 1995 — Gunmen attack Mubarak’s car as he arrives at an Organisation of African Unity summit in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. He is unhurt and returns to Egypt. Mubarak later blames a Sudanese man for the attempt.
- November 17 1997 — Egypt’s biggest Islamic militant group, al-Gama’a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) kill 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an ancient temple near the southern town of Luxor. Six gunmen and three police also die. The state crushed groups including al-Gama’a al-Islamiya and Islamic Jihad, which targeted tourists, Christians, ministers in a 1990s campaign for an Islamic state and kept a tight lid on such groups afterwards.
- October 5 1999 — Mubarak is sworn in as president for his fourth term and names Atef Obeid as prime minister after the government led by Kamal Ganzouri resigns.
- December 22 1999 — Egypt agrees to sell its natural gas through what Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s office calls a “Pipeline of Peace”.
- March 2005 — Street protests by the Kefaya (Enough) Movement draw hundreds across Egypt to oppose a fifth term for Mubarak or any attempt to install his son Gamal in his place. Days before, police say they detained about 200 members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition party.
- May 11 2005 — Parliament votes to change the constitution to allow contested presidential elections, dismissing opposition complaints that strict rules would prevent genuine competition. A referendum later in May overwhelmingly confirms the constitutional change.
- September 27 2005 — Mubarak is sworn in for a fifth consecutive term after winning the first contested presidential election on September 7. Rival Ayman Nour is the only Member of Parliament to remain seated during the ceremony, apparently to show his refusal to accept the official vote count.
- December 8 2005 — The Muslim Brotherhood increase their seats in Parliament after an election marred by violence, but Mubarak’s party retains a big majority. Eight people were killed on the last day of voting on December 7. The Muslim Brotherhood says it has won 12 seats, expanding its parliamentary bloc to 88, nearly a fifth of the seats and its strongest showing ever.
- November 19 2006 — Mubarak says he will retain his responsibilities for the rest of his life.
- June 4 2009 — United States President Barack Obama in a speech in Cairo calls for a “new beginning” in ties between Washington and the Islamic world.
- March 26 2010 — Former United Nations nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei makes first public appearance after his return to Egypt in February. ElBaradei has said he would consider a presidential bid if demands are met, including constitutional changes to limit power.
- March 27 2010 — Mubarak returns to Egypt to reassume presidential powers after three weeks recovering from gallbladder surgery in Germany.
- November 29 2010 — The Muslim Brotherhood says a rigged election has all but wiped out its presence in Parliament, virtually eliminating opposition to Mubarak’s ruling party before a 2011 presidential vote. The group skirts a ban on religious parties by running independents.
- January 25 2011 — Anti-government protests across Egypt begin as demonstrators voice anger, complaining of poverty and repression.
- January 28 — Mubarak orders troops and tanks into cities overnight to quell demonstrations across Egypt. The United Nations later says around 300 people have been killed in the protests.
- January 31 — Egypt swears in a new government. New Vice-President Omar Suleiman says Mubarak has asked him to start dialogue with all political forces.
- February 1 — More than one million people around Egypt call for an end to Mubarak’s rule.
- February 6 — Opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, hold talks with the government, chaired by the vice-president.
- February 8 — Suleiman says Egypt has a timetable for the peaceful transfer of power.
- February 11 — Mubarak steps down and a military council will run the country’s affairs, Vice President Omar Suleiman says on state television.– AFP, Reuters
February 10 — Mubarak says national dialogue underway, transfers powers to vice-president but he refuses to leave office immediately as protesters demand.