The top leadership body of Egypt’s ruling party has resigned, including the president’s son, but the regime appeared to be digging in its heels.
It appeared to be calculating that it can ride out street demonstrations and keep President Hosni Mubarak in office.
The ruling party leaders who resigned included the country’s most powerful political figures – and its most unpopular among many Egyptians.
The move may have been aimed at convincing protesters in the streets that the regime is sincere in implementing democratic reforms they demand. But state TV, announcing the resignations, still identified head of state Mubarak as president of the ruling party in a sign he would remain in authority.
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said stability was returning to the country, appearing confident that a deal on future reforms can be reached with the multiple opposition movements to defuse protests without the 82-year-old Mubarak necessarily leaving power immediately.
Protesters have refused to end their mass rallies in the central Tahrir Square until Mubarak quits.
Tens of thousands gathered there, waving flags and chanting a day after some 100,000 massed there in an intensified demonstration labelled “the day of departure,” in hopes it would be the day Mubarak leaves.
Their unprecedented 12-day movement has entered a delicate new phase. Organisers fear that without the pressure of protesters on the street, Mubarak’s regime will enact only cosmetic reforms and try to preserve its grip on power.
In the meantime, the government has sought to draw opposition parties and the youth groups involved in the protests into immediate negotiations on constitutional reforms so presidential elections can be held in September to replace Mubarak.
Protest organisers, wary of a trap, have refused until Mubarak goes. A key question will be whether they can maintain enthusiasm and continue to rally large numbers. Some in Tahrir greeted the new concession of ruling party resignations with with scorn.