In 1970 an estimated 4-5 million Egyptians attended the funeral of President Nasser in Egypt. 5 years later around 4 million flocked to the funeral of Umm Kulthum, the diva who dominated the Arab music scene for over 4 decades.
We are now waiting expectantly for the "Million March" called for by the anti-Mubarak popular uprising. The government has gone out of its way to hamper the influx of demonstrators, suspending rail and air travel, setting up roadblocks and maintaining the communication blackout on the country. That in turn prompted Google to don its cyber fatigues and set up a service whereby people can use a landline to call and send or listen to Twitter tweets. I wonder how long before the government blacklists those Google numbers...
Newly-installed Vice President Omar Suleiman went on air last night announcing that Mubarak had delegated him the task of opening a dialogue with the opposition about political reform and reconsidering some parliamentary election results widely considered to have been rigged.
Meanwhile Finance Minister Samir Radwan has told the BBC that the newly-installed cabinet has a "very clear plan" to deal with unemployment, poverty and corruption.
As if 30 years weren't enough to deal with those critical issues!
Radwan went on to describe Mubarak as a "fighter".
All of this as the army said it would not resort to force against the demonstrators and an American emissary headed to Cairo.
Certainly the president hasn't thrown in the towel yet and is playing every last card and using every trick he ferreted up his sleeve to hang on to power. If the popular uprising manages to pull of today's protest and demonstrate it still has the momentum then whatever Mubarak does, he is no longer salvageable. He has been utterly discredited and there is no comeback. The best he can hope for is a relatively-dignified retirement. Considering the fact that there would be at least a million Egyptians who have benefited from his long rule, I would seriously doubt his being dragged through the tortuous process of a legal hearing. There would be too much dirt on everyone, including certain members and groupings of the opposition!
Whether Mubarak can effect nothing short of a miracle and see out the remainder of his term as a hapless president remains to be seen.
And even if he eludes his pursuers today, I think it's now widely accepted that a smooth and stable transitional period would be in everyone's interest and that's the basis of all the behind-the-scenes politicking going on at the moment.
The logic of politics, which is infinitely illogical and unprincipled, tells me that just about everyone has conceded that he is a lost cause. And if those with vested interests in Egypt know what's good for them they will distance themselves from him (as they have been doing recently - except for the Israelis who are desperate to keep him in power) and give some credit to the Arab people who always remember the good and not-so-good deeds done unto them. And as we've seen recently, everyone has a tipping point, even the Arabs who have lain in deep slumbers for centuries.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
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