omar suleiman
© Reuters TV/ReutersTahrir delegates' demands preclude any governing role for the existing elite, including vice-president Omar Suleiman.

Egyptian president clings to power as hundreds of thousands stage 'day of departure' demonstration in Tahrir Square

The immediate removal of President Mubarak from office will not be enough to stop the huge anti-government rallies that have engulfed Egypt in recent days, according to a list of demands drawn up by a key coalition of protesters which has been seen by the Guardian.

Following 11 days of widespread demonstrations against Mubarak's rule that have brought hundreds of thousands on to the streets and provoked violent clashes with militant defenders of the government, those rallying against the current regime have come together in a remarkable surge of grassroots decision-making to forge a common consensus on their aims.

These include the resignation of not just Mubarak but also the entire ruling party establishment - including Omar Suleiman, the vice-president whom the Obama administration believes is best placed to take the helm during the post-Mubarak transition period. Protesters are calling instead for a broad-based transitional government appointed by a 14-strong committee which would be made up of senior judges, youth leaders and members of the military.

In Tahrir, the square that has become the focal point for the nationwide struggle against Mubarak's three-decade dictatorship, groups of protesters have been debating what their precise goals should be in the face of their president's continuing refusal to stand down.

The Guardian has learned that delegates from these mini-gatherings then come together to discuss the prevailing mood, before potential demands are read out over the square's makeshift speaker system. The adoption of each proposal is based on the proportion of cheers or boos it receives from the crowd at large.

Delegates have arrived in Tahrir from other parts of the country that have declared themselves liberated from Mubarak's rule, including the major cities of Alexandria and Suez, and are also providing input into the decisions.

"When the government shut down the web, politics moved on to the street, and that's where it has stayed," said one youth involved in the process. "It's impossible to construct a perfect decision-making mechanism in such a fast-moving environment, but this is as democratic as we can possibly be."

"Genuine opposition politics in this country has always relied on people taking the initiative, and that's what we're seeing here - on a truly astounding level," said Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian author who has been closely monitoring the spontaneous political activity on the ground. "There is more transparency and equality here in Tahrir than anything we've ever seen under the Mubarak regime; anyone and everyone can have their say, and that makes the demands that come out of the process even more powerful."

The document that has emerged from Tahrir details calls for the election of a founding council of 40 public intellectuals and constitutional experts, who will draw up a new constitution over the coming months under the supervision of the transitional government, then put it to the Egyptian people in a referendum. Following the passage of the new constitution, fresh elections would be held at a local and national level.

Such a scenario would go far further than the piecemeal constitutional reform offered by the present government, and would preclude any delay in Mubarak's departure or any transitional governing role for existing members of country's ruling elite.

The demands, which have been endorsed by the so-called "300" - the loose coalition of online activists who were behind last month's call for the "day of rage" on 25 January, the event that sparked the current uprising - are also more radical than those put forward earlier this week by a group of senior judges, diplomats and businessmen in the Egyptian daily newspaper Al Shorouk. The latter group's statement endorsed the idea of Suleiman as a transitional president, an outcome firmly rejected by the majority of those camped out in Tahrir.

Other demands to have come out the square include the end of the country's Emergency Law, the dismantling of the state security apparatus, and the trial of key regime leaders, including Mubarak.

"The regime is trying to demonise protesters as agents of foreign powers, fomenters of chaos, and so on," says Hossam el-Hamalawy, a journalist and blogger. "But go down to Tahrir, sit on a corner, and within a few minutes you'll be in the middle of a spontaneous political discussion - the energy of people's ideas is inspiring. It's down there that the legitimate voice of the protesters and our revolution can be heard."