By Ray Fleming

IT will be very surprising if the Egyptian military is not in power by the time these words are being read in print. Late yesterday afternoon all the signs pointed to Hosni Mubarak's reluctant relinquishment of the presidency he has held for thirty years, in response to the peaceful demand of the extraordinary army of protesters which has filled Cairo's' streets and open spaces for seventeen days. Whether Mubarak's key ministers will have remained in office is uncertain but if so their powers will be much reduced. It has to be remembered that the Egyptian military has provided and protected the country's leaders for six decades, so an extension of that influence when a period of stability is needed can hardly be called a “coup” or in any way regarded as unwelcome given the political vacuum that Mubarak's reign has left behind.

It has always been evident that the moment of Mubarak's resignation, whenever it might come, would also be a time of great danger for Egypt's future. The euphoria felt by those who have called for his departure will know no bounds but, correspondingly, the disappointment if the change is not clear and clean will generate great anger. The Army's twin undertaking to “take the necessary measures to protect the nation and to meet the legitimate demands of the people” are the assurances that the whole nation and all its admirers will cling to in these historic days.