It wasn’t to be the day after all. Expectations in Egypt were high ahead of Mubarak’s appearance on state TV, but his speech brought only disappointment and anger.

Millions of protesters in Cairo and other cities were hoping Mubarak would finally step down.

What they got instead was a couple of weak concessions, draped in a lot of pathos and nationalist language: free and fair elections, a peaceful transfer of power until September, lifting of the state of emergency – things that will not satisfy the people of Egypt by a long way. The time for such promises has long gone, and the only one who doesn’t know it is the president himself.

The disappointment and anger of the Egyptians was even greater because all day, people could feel that a significant change was in the air. Tahrir Square in Cairo was packed again tonight, with one blogger tweeting “There isn’t an empty inch in Tahrir.” Today was the biggest demonstration in Tahrir Square since 25th January. The atmosphere was euphoric – a BBC correspondent describing it as “a bit like a rock concert before the band comes on stage.” What the people of Egypt want to see, of course, was not any band coming onto the stage, but an ageing president finally vacating it. Not today.

As split screens on almost every TV channel showed, Mubarak is supremely out of touch with the people. Even the Western powers appear shocked at his level of denial. They shouldn’t be surprised; his arrogance is in fact largely a product of their unwavering support over decades. It may also be that Mubarak has survived another day because Vice President Suleiman and the clique of generals around him have decided they are so tainted they would not survive Mubarak’s downfall. There is speculation the army command is divided. Maybe. But that cannot be relied on.

The reaction of the protesters immediately after Mubarak’s speech suggests that far from being crestfallen there is a mood now to up the stakes, with much talk of marching on the presidential palace and the state TV. It seems that people are finally losing patience with their dictator’s unwillingness to face the facts. And the facts are that the Egyptians want him and his regime to go. If not today, then maybe tomorrow.

Peter Stauber

Peter Stäuber is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for English and German language publications and is a member of the NUJ.