Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman thrilled masses of anti-government protesters with a Friday evening announcement: President Hosni Mubarak would leave office. The news came less than less than 24 hours after a defiant Mubarak implied he would remain until September.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square erupted into thunderous cheers and chanted: "Egypt is free!" The jubilant celebration capped three weeks of mass protests aimed at ousting Mubarak and ending his regime.
Suleiman's announcement on Friday evening abruptly ended three decades of Mubarak's ironclad rule, and raised questions about how the galvanized nation would move forward. The immediate plan, according to the vice president: Mubarak will hand over all power to the military.
The Egyptian military-largely popular with Egyptian citizens-had raised hopes yesterday that Mubarak would step down. But the president's muddled-and sometimes defiant-address to the nation on Thursday night left many confused: Mubarak said he would hand powers to the vice president, but shoulder responsibilities until new elections in September. Swarms of protesters expecting his resignation grew furious, and demonstrations swelled with chants of: "Get out! Get out!"
After the confusing speech on Thursday, Egyptian diplomats tried to assure Western officials that Mubarak was handing over all his powers to Suleiman. Some reports indicated that Mubarak had muddled remarks that were supposed make clear his intentions to step aside.
By Friday morning, the president had left Cairo bound for his Red Sea resort home nearly 200 miles away, as protesters reached the outskirts of the presidential palace in Cairo. By day's end, his rule was finished.
As the Egyptian military made plans to address Egyptian citizens, questions arose about the next steps: How soon would the military schedule elections? Would they allow enough time to ensure a full and fair process? What role would Suleiman play? Will Egyptian citizens accept any participation from a vice president they view as an extension of Mubarak? What political parties will vie for power? What role would the Muslim Brotherhood play in a new political process?