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Amid celebrations, Egyptians call on army to help build a new democracy.
CAIRO, Egypt – As hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrated the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, following an 18-day-long popular uprising that toppled his 30-year-old regime, many questions remain over the future of the political leadership in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Egypt’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, announced Friday that the military had assumed control after Mubarak’s resignation.
“President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country,” said Suleiman in a brief statement aired on Egyptian state television.
On Saturday, Egypt's ruling military declared its commitment to civilian rule and democracy, as well as the fact that all foreign treaties would stay in effect — including its treaty with Israel, signed in 1979.
For the anti-government protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the movement demanding an end to Mubarak’s autocratic regime, all that mattered was the former president's departure.
“Victory is ours,” screamed Sherif Amin, a 28-year-old engineer. “We have finally overcome corruption and injustice.”
The joyous crowd of thousands erupted into a wave of surprise jubilation, hoisting up a sea of red, white and black Egyptian flags just seconds after the announcement reached the city center.
“Long live Egypt!” screamed thousands of demonstrators in unison.
Tahrir Square, once Cairo’s major artery for the city’s notorious traffic, instantly transformed into the type of raucous street party usually only seen following victories by the Egyptian national soccer team.
Fireworks and bright orange flames fueled by lit aerosol cans burst into the night sky, as crowds of young Egyptians sang and danced to the tune of whistles and heart-pounding bass and Egyptian tabla drums.
Cars and music-blaring mopeds raced up and down Cairo’s narrow streets, honking their horns to no particular rhythm, as thousands of people on the streets outside Tahrir chanted, “God is great.”
The mood in Tahrir was one of hope and empowerment, following years of economic stagnation and iron-fisted rule under Mubarak, one of the longest serving leaders in the Middle East.
“This feeling is indescribable,” said Mahmoud el Gawaby, who brought his family of 10, including his 2-year-old grandson Mohamed, to witness the historic moment. “Maybe in this new era, Mohamed here will be able to run for president some day.”