Reports claim that Hosni Mubarak has announced that he will step down at the next election in September. What does this betoken for Egypt and its people? Are these reports true, or is this simply a political ruse on the part of this wily old dictator? Given the scale of today's demonstrations and the army's announcement that it will not fire on protesters, it seems that he has no option other than to leave office and that this statement is indeed genuine.
When he does eventually go, which one would assume ought to be soon, who will be left in charge? Will a caretaker administration allow sufficient time for a pluralist slate of candidates and political parties to contest the Egyptian elections, or will, as many have predicted, the Muslim Brotherhood simply step into the void and proffer itself as the Government of the people's choice? Egypt falling into the hands of Islamists would be very bad news for its people, particularly for its large Coptic minority, as well as for the wider world. Will Egypt choose the route of Eastern Europe in 1989, or of Iran in 1979? Hopefully the former, but that may be being overly optimistic.