UPDATE:  Mubarak Steps Down!!!!  #Jan25 For The Win!

UPDATE II: Ban Ki Moon responds.  In a media stakeout at the UN moments ago, the Secretary General offered his first remarks since Mubarak stepped down earlier today. A UN Dispatch reader who followed the proceedings send in these notes:

Ban said that it must have been a difficult decision but respects that the wider interests of the Egyptian people were taken into account. He went on to say that he reiterates his call made last night for a “transparent, orderly, and peaceful transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people and includes free and fair and credible elections leading to the early establishment of civilian rule.” Most notably, the SG said in praise, “The voice of the Egyptian people, particularly the youth, has been heard, and it is for them to determine the future of their country.” He commended the peaceful process and urged all parties to continue in the same manner, adding that the UN is ready to assist this process.

UPDATE II/B  Here’s Ban’s official statement:

I have just learned of President Mubarak’s decision to step down, and I continue to monitor developments in Egypt. I respect what must have been a difficult decision, taken in the wider interests of the Egyptian people.

At this historic moment, I reiterate my call, made as recently as last night, for a transparent, orderly and peaceful transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people and includes free, fair and credible elections leading to the early establishment of civilian rule. I urge the interim authorities to chart a clear path forward with the participation of all stakeholders.

In this process, it is vital that human rights and civil liberties are fully respected, and that genuine and inclusive dialogue is assured. The voice of the Egyptian people, particularly the youth, has been heard, and it is for them to determine the future of their country.

I commend the people of Egypt for the peaceful and courageous and orderly manner in which they have exercised their legitimate rights. I call on all parties to continue in the same spirit.

The United Nations stands ready to assist in the process.

New York
11 February 2011

After Hosni Mubarak’s monstrously terrible speech yesterday, the crowds in Tahrir square and throughout Egypt seem to have swelled to unprecedented levels.  Reading the writing on the wall, Mubarak has apparently skipped town.  Several news outlets report that he is en route to the resort town of Sharm el Sheikh.   Omar Suleiman appears to be the de-facto head of government.

Needless to say, today is a very important day for the #Jan25 movement.

Issandr al Amrani posts a very insightful analysis of the various motivations that are currently driving the decisions of key stakeholders. He explains why the patina of constitutionality matters to certain players, what is going on inside army circles, among protest leaders, and the Egyptian political elite.    Sample:

- Who cares about the constitution? Perhaps not many protestors, but for the regime the constitution represents legitimacy. Mubarak needs to be in place, even if only symbolically, for amendments to the constitution to be made. If the constitution is suspended, then this forces the army to take charge itself (presumably through the Supreme Military Council), which opens the way to demands for civilian government and lifts the last layer of distance that the army has vis-a-vis the people.

-Why wouldn’t the army want to take charge directly? Because it makes it directly accountable to popular demands and opens the way for calls for a new civilian transition government that could challenge or dilute its own authority. A civilian government that could for instance instigate wide-reaching corruption investigations.

– The army could also be split on this issue, with hour-by-hour negotiations taking place between those who back the protestors’ demands and the senior officers. It may also want to avoid an armed clash with the Republican Guards that would seriously destabilize the country and further rob the regime of legitimacy.

– Have we passed the point that the army is becoming a target of the protestors too? There’s always been a core of activists who want to see the end of military dominance over Egypt. It’s not clear whether it’s the majority, or even if this sentiment is echoed in the wider, silent Egyptian public. The army’s key problem (and especially Suleiman’s) is that they suck at communicating. Their battle to retain public legitimacy may be lost because of bad PR and tone-deafness.

In the meantime, the reliable Twitter feed of Sultan Al Qassemi reports that 80,000 protesters march are headed toward the Presidential Palace in Cairo.  Watch for updates during the day.  I’ll do my best to aggregate the most interesting analysis found on blogs and Twitter.