Can Egypt's revolution stay the distance?

Increasing signs of normality in parts of Cairo belie a continuing stalemate.

After thirty unbroken years as President of Egypt, it had seemed as if Hosni Mubarak's charmed career was finally coming to an end.

But yesterday, Cairo's famous traffic jams were back. Businesses, shops, and banks were open across the capital. Barack Obama spoke of the "progress" the Egyptian government was making towards reform. And though still in tens of thousands, the numbers at Tahrir Square were probably down on the previous day.

Meanwhile, Mr Mubarak, the great survivor, was using all the guile that has kept him in power for so long to produce a series of sweeteners – including a 15 per cent pay rise for state employees – to widen his public support. He even held the first meeting of his new cabinet: the group he had hastily cobbled together as another means of staving off the end. His regime was doing everything in its power to suggest that things were calm once more. In another symbolically conciliatory move, the regime released Wael Ghonim, a local marketing manager for Google, who is a prominent youth activist involved in the protests and was detained three days after they began.

But the increasing signs of normality in parts of Cairo yesterday belied a continuing stalemate between the two sides in the fortnight-old conflict. Even as the regime tried to suggest that it was back to business at usual, the protesters who remain in Tahrir Square angrily argued otherwise.

There may have been fewer of them than the day before, but they showed no sign of backing down, with the vocal rejection of the regime's insinuations of growing agreement on constitutional reform only the most obvious sign of their determination to carry on. The protesters are deterred from ending the struggle in Tahrir Square by a real fear of arrest, victimisation and revenge by the authorities if they give up.

But there were also signs of splits within the negotiating committee that represents them. Some within the 25-strong "wise men" group of prominent Egyptians argued that the protesters should take the regime's promises of reform at face value and that Mr Mubarak should stay for the six-month departure period he outlined last week.

Naguib Sawiris, a prominent business tycoon and one of the 25 negotiators, yesterday used a BBC interview to call on protesters to allow Mr Mubarak to stay until a clear mechanism for transition was in place. Mr Sawiris said Mr Mubarak had lost his legitimacy but that a big segment of the country did not want to see the President – a war hero – humiliated. He also warned protesters that chaos could ensue along with increasing exploitation by religious movements, and possible moves by the army.

Mr Sawiris' comments followed similar remarks by other senior negotiators. On Sunday the popular Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian-American scientist Ahmed Zweil said that while there were some who wanted Mr Mubarak to go immediately and there was a problem of "trust" in the talks, others felt that Egypt respected "the elderly" and that Mr Mubarak should be allowed to stay for the "relatively short time" before the planned presidential election.

But several other representatives of the demonstrators announced their intention to stand firm. Zyad Elelaiwy, 32, a lawyer who is a member of the umbrella opposition group founded by Mohamed ElBaradei, told The New York Times there was a generational divide in the movement. The older figures "are more close to negotiating, but they don't have access to the street," Mr Elelaiwy said. "The people know us. They don't know them."

The paper also reported that one of the groups that started the protest with a hitherto anonymous Facebook page had broken cover to demand a general strike today. After his meetings on Sunday with various opposition groups Vice-President Omar Suleiman declared in a statement widely reported on state television that there was now "consensus" about a path to reform. But this version of events was challenged by some prominent youth activists as well as by a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsy, who insisted: "We did not come out with results."

Whether protesters will take to the streets today in the kinds of numbers that they did at the end of last week remains in doubt. Whatever happens in Tahrir Square, it is not clear that reporters will be able to assess it first hand. Yesterday journalists attempting to access the area were told they would need press cards to do so from now on – and that it would take a further 48 hours to issue them.

Timeline

Day 1: 25 January

Inspired by the ousting of Tunisia's president on 14 January, thousands protest across Egypt to demand President Mubarak's resignation.

Day 2: 26 January

Police use tear gas and water cannon against thousands of demonstrators who defy a government ban on anti-Mubarak protests. Around 500 people are arrested.

Day 3: 27 January

Nobel peace laureate and reformist Mohamed ElBaradei arrives in Cairo. He is later placed under house arrest.

Day 4: 28 January

Internet services are severely disrupted. Protesters set fire to the ruling party's headquarters. Mubarak deploys the army to control demonstrators, but the protesters welcome the tanks.

Day 5: 29 January

Mubarak sacks his cabinet and appoints a vice-president, but refuses to step down. Looting and vigilante attacks are reported, and hundreds of prisoners escape.

Day 6: 30 January

US President Barack Obama calls for Egypt to make an "orderly transition" to democracy, but does not ask Mubarak to step down.

Day 7: 31 January

The Egyptian army refuses to use force against peaceful protesters. A new cabinet is sworn in. The death toll stands at 100 people.

Day 8: 1 February

Up to a million Egyptians march through Cairo demanding Mubarak's resignation. Mubarak announces his decision to step down in September, when his term ends.

Day 9: 2 February

At least three people are killed and 600 injured as Mubarak supporters and demonstrators fight with petrol bombs and iron bars. ElBaradei, the White House and the United Nations condemn the fighting. Internet services are mostly restored.

Day 10: 3 February

Mubarak tells reporters he is fed up with being in power, but thinks chaos will ensue if he steps down straight away. The UN estimates that around 300 people have been killed in the unrest.

Day 11: 4 February

Thousands continue to gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand that Mubarak steps down. President Obama puts pressure on Mubarak to listen to the protesters' demands.

Day 12: 5 February

Demonstrators maintain occupation of Tahrir Square. Mubarak removes his son from a senior party post and asks his deputy to invite opposition groups to negotiate reform.

Day 13: 6 February

After being closed for more than a week, banks begin to reopen. The Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups discuss reform with the government, but many say this concession is not enough.

Day 14: 7 February

People return to work, but protesters remain in Tahrir Square and Cairo's stock exchange stays closed. The Muslim Brotherhood says government talks did not offer substantive concessions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?