Vice President Omar Suleiman announces in a televised address that Hosni Mubarak was stepping down, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Powers have been transferred to the army following a wave of mobilisation over the past 18 days, millions of people demanding the overthrow not only of Mubarak but the whole regime.

How far away Mubarak’s speech on Thursday night now seems, when he declared his intention to remain in power and not bow to “foreign pressure”. He was right; he left power because of the mobilisation of the Egyptian people who demanded his resignation, and not foreigners.

The top figure in Egypt’s new regime is now Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the country’s defence minister. After the announcement, he drove past Mubarak’s former palace, where crowds cheered him. He stopped briefly to thank and hail the crowds before driving in.

In Cairo, the crowd in Tahrir Square exploded with joy, welcoming this new era by a chorus of horns. The demonstrators waved Egyptian flags and fired guns into the air to celebrate the announcement. The protesters chanted, “We have brought down the regime” while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.

In Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, many people described an “explosion of emotion”. Hundreds of thousands were celebrating in the streets. Celebrations are also being held in the cities of Mansoura, Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.

Violence was reported in the northern Sinai town of El-Arish, where protesters attempted to storm a police station. At least one person was killed, and 20 wounded in that attack.

Throughout the country earlier today, protesters had marched on the presidential palace, state television buildings and other government installations.

The secretary general of the former ruling party National Democratic Party (NDP), appointed on 5th February to appease the revolt on the streets, also announced his resignation. He said there was a need for the emergence of new political formations corresponding to changing attitudes and changing ideas in the country.

Arab reaction

Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, declared that there was now a “big chance” to build a “national consensus” in the coming period.

In Gaza jubilant scenes followed the announcement, with Palestinians setting off fireworks into the evening sky. “The resignation of the Egyptian president… is the beginning of the victory of the Egyptian revolution,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said. He added, “Such a victory was the result of the sacrifices and the steadfastness of the Egyptian people.”

Jubilation rang out in Tunis as well shortly after the announcement. A deafening concert of horns greeted the new information from Cairo. Similar scenes of joy were witnessed in several Arab countries, including Lebanon.

World reaction

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said the move showed Mubarak had “listened the voices of the Egyptian people” and opened the way to reform in the country.” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, hailed Mubarak’s decision as an “historic change” and called on the country to respect its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Her sentiments were echoed by a senior Israeli official, who said: “We hope that the change to democracy in Egypt will happen without violence and that the peace accord will remain.”

David Cameron also urged Egypt to “move towards civilian and democratic rule.” Iran said Egyptians had achieved a “great victory.” Meanwhile Switzerland reacted by saying it was freezing the assets potentially belonging to Mubarak, according to a foreign ministry spokesman.

But these leaders never criticised Mubarak throughout his 30-year rule. Even during the protests, they supported him until they realised he had no choice but to step down, and that the people had won.

The revolution must continue

Mubarak is the second dictator to resign in the Arab world, after Ben Ali in Tunisia, following mass protests. The region, which has suffered several decades from western imperialism and neoliberal policies, is changing. People believe once again that they can play a role in the destiny of their country. A new feeling that they can be the subject of history and not simply the object is now clearly present.

Mubarak’s resignation is only the first step in the revolutionary process. While his departure is a success, this will ultimately not satisfy the demands of the people. The Egyptian revolution will have to continue and be made permanent in order for there to be real democratic and social rights. Only by pursuing the revolution will they be able to put an end to oppression, inequality and injustice. This is just the beginning.

Tahya Thawra! Power to the people!

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