What began as a leaderless movement in the streets of Cairo has evolved into a crowded field of would-be power brokers hoping to lead a new government in Egypt.
Among the key players are:
• Amr Moussa: The popularity of this one-time foreign minister in the Mubarak government prompted President Hosni Mubarak to shift him to the comparatively lower-profile post of secretary-general of the Arab League in 2001, some critics say.
In a sign of the high regard that many Egyptians still have for him, Mr. Moussa, 74, was greeted by chants of “We want you as president” as he strode into Cairo’s Tahrir Square to join the anti-government protesters on Friday.
Mr. Moussa has said he would seriously consider running as a candidate in a presidential election.
As foreign minister from 1991 to 2001, he was highly critical of U.S. support for Israel and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. This stand played a large part in shoring up his popularity on the Arab street.
• Omar Suleiman: Mr. Mubarak appointed Mr. Suleiman as Egypt’s first vice president in almost 30 years after the protests broke out.
Mr. Suleiman, 74, was the head of the national intelligence agency, which human rights groups claim is responsible for widespread abuse and torture.
His close relationship with the CIA was revealed in U.S. Embassy cables leaked recently by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks.
“Our intelligence collaboration with Oman Soliman is now probably the most successful element of the [U.S.-Egypt] relationship,” said a 2006 cable, which used an alternate spelling of his name. It described Mr. Suleiman as Mr. Mubarak’s “consigliere on foreign policy matters.”
U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey described him as a “pragmatist with an extremely sharp, analytical mind.”
For many pro-democracy Egyptians, Mr. Suleiman has been tainted by his association with the Mubarak regime. Analysts say if Mr. Suleiman were to lead a transition, he would seek to limit the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in a future government.
“Omar Suleiman profoundly dislikes … dislikes is not a strong enough term. He hates the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Michael Collins Dunn, an analyst at the Middle East Institute.
• Lt. Gen. Sami Annan: The chief of the Egyptian army, Gen. Annan was on a visit to Washington when the protests erupted in Cairo.
Gen. Annan reportedly had urged Mr. Mubarak not to appoint his son Gamal as his successor.
The military plays a prominent role in Egypt and is widely respected. It has sought to stay neutral in the crisis by acknowledging the anti-government protesters’ rights and declaring last week that it would not crack down on them.
• Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi: As defense minister and deputy prime minister, the 75-year-old field marshal wears two hats. He visited Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday, saying he wanted to “inspect the situation” firsthand.
Egyptian army officers frequently referred derisively to Field Marshal Tantawi as “Mubarak’s poodle,” according to a military analyst at the American University in Cairo cited in a leaked U.S. Embassy cable.
U.S. officials also have been frustrated by his resistance to change.
On the eve of Field Marshal Tantawi’s visit to the U.S. in March 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo sent its assessment of him in a cable to the State Department.
“Washington interlocutors should be prepared to meet an aged and change-resistant Tantawi,” said the cable from then-Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone.
“He and Mubarak are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time. They simply do not have the energy, inclination or world view to do anything differently,” it added.
• Ahmed Shafiq: Mr. Shafiq, like Mr. Mubarak, began his career in the Egyptian air force. He rose to the post of commander of the air force, a position he held from 1996 to 2002.
In 2002, he was named minister of civil aviation.
Mr. Mubarak appointed the 69-year-old Mr. Shafiq prime minister in the wake of the unrest. The decision was interpreted by analysts as an attempt by the president to consolidate the support of the armed forces.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Mr. Shafiq, a Mubarak loyalist, said there is no reason for the president to leave office before September, when the next elections are scheduled.
• Mohamed ElBaradei: A Nobel peace laureate, Mr. ElBaradei has emerged as the most internationally recognized face of the protests.
However, the 68-year-old Mr. ElBaradei has tepid support from Egyptians, many of whom resent that he spent much of his life outside Egypt.
Mr. ElBaradei studied and worked in Geneva and New York and later served in Vienna, Austria, as director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 to 2009.
In 2010, he returned to Egypt and founded the National Association for Change, aimed at ending corruption and ushering in true democracy.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Mr. ElBaradei criticized comments by Frank G. Wisner, who was sent to Cairo last week by the Obama administration for talks with Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Wisner later said Mr. Mubarak must stay in office to guide the transition.
Mr. ElBaradei said the comment had “created a lot of confusion, a lot of disappointment” in Egypt.
• Mohammed Badie: He heads the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Badie is a professor in the Department of Pathology Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Beni Suef, Upper Egypt.
Mr. Badie, 67, has claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to nonviolence, democratic reform and social work, but the Mubarak government accused the Islamic fundamentalist movement of promoting violence and banned the Brotherhood.
There are rumors that the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to consolidate its influence within the protest movement behind the scenes, said Metsa Rahimi, a security intelligence analyst at Janusian Security Risk Management in London.
“Even if the protests have been based on social grievances and secular in nature, these are rumors we should not ignore,” she added.
However, Wayne White, a former deputy director of the Near East and South Asia office in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, said that while the Muslim Brotherhood can be expected to play a major role in a future government, it is very unlikely that it would play the lead role.
• Al-Sayed al-Badawi: He heads the liberal Wafd Party, which is the second biggest party in the opposition forces rallying against Mr. Mubarak.
However, the party has often been accused of serving only as a token opposition group.
• Ayman Nour: He heads the liberal Al-Ghad Party. Mr. Nour, 46, was thrown into prison after he challenged Mr. Mubarak in the presidential election in 2005. He does not have the high profile he once had.
Mr. Nour has described as disappointing Mr. Mubarak’s decision to stay in power but not seek re-election.
To some analysts, the only certainty in Egypt’s political landscape is the fate of Mr. Mubarak’s son, who was widely expected to succeed his father.
“One thing is very clear: Gamal Mubarak has to look for another job,” Mr. Dunn said.