Middle East

Egypt unrest: Pro-Mubarak supporters 'well-organised'

Supporters and opponents of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak clash in Cairo's Tahrir Square - 2 February 2011
Image caption Supporters of President Mubarak fought with demonstrators calling for him to step down

From the start of the Wednesday the atmosphere was different.

Since I arrived here a week ago I have seen no significant demonstrations for President Mubarak.

But from the morning there were thousands of his supporters on Cairo's streets, mobilised presumably by the ruling party, the NDP.

The pro-Mubarak demonstrations were well organised, not spontaneous.

Numbered buses unloaded supporters. Many placards looked as if they had been made by professional sign writers.

Their opponents claim that they are paid to demonstrate.

It was the follow-up to last night's speech, when the president announced he would not stand in September's elections.

For an authoritarian leader like Hosni Mubarak, the sight of so many people in Tahrir Square calling for his removal must have been deeply humiliating.

He will have wanted to reassert his authority over his capital city - and his supporters were given the job.

President Mubarak's survival plan is to stay in office until the early autumn. He wants to leave on his own terms. That is why his government has rejected calls from his Western allies to start transferring power soon.

The army commanders seem to have agreed that it is best for him to see out his term.

As the pro-Mubarak marchers were gathering, they issued a statement calling for the people occupying the square to leave - and their soldiers made no attempt to stop President Mubarak's supporters bursting into the square.