Egyptian protesters clash with riot police in Cairo Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak fired his government but refused to bow to demands that he resign, ordering troops and tanks into cities to quell an explosion of street protests against his 30-year rule.

What comes next? Following are some questions and answers

Has Mubarak done enough to send protesters home?

Protesters were still on the streets after Mubarak announced that he would sack his cabinet, and the crowds remained defiant.

"It was never about the government, by God. It is you (Mubarak) who has to go! What you have done to the people is enough!" said one protester.

Mubarak has delivered a tough message and shown his resolve to stay. The message involved a big stick and a modest carrot. The stick came in the form of tanks rattling into the capital and other cities.

The carrot was the acknowledgement in his TV address of the economic frustrations many Egyptians have, the promise of steps to help the poorest in particular and vague pledges about political reform.

Many Egyptians may believe they have heard such promises before. But protesters who venture out now will find themselves looking down the barrel of the gun of a tank, rather than facing down a riot truck's water cannon.

While the protest was driven by Web-savvy, more educated, middle class Egyptians, it drew a far broader range of the population onto the street as momentum built.

The poor who depend on state food subsidies may want to see if Mubarak's promises of help materialise before testing how ready the army is to act on its implicit threat of force.

"We will have to see how people react but I don't think it will be enough at all. I wouldn't want to put a number on his chances of survival - we really are in uncharted territory," said Anthony Skinner, associate director at political risk consultancy Maplecroft.

What does Tunisia tell  us?

When Tunisian President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali sacked his government and promised early elections, the concessions marked the end for his rule: he made the pledge in the morning and had fled by evening. But he was not able to get the army's backing to do the job of controlling the protesters which the police had failed to do.

Mubarak, a former air force commander, has so far shown he is still firmly in control of the army, the most powerful force in the country. It will take hardy protesters to challenge that.

"In some ways, it is reminiscent of what Bin Ali did in Tunisia before he was forced out, that he also sacked his cabinet, but he then had to stand down when it became clear the army would not fire on demonstrators. We still don't really know where the army in Egypt stands at present," said Skinner.

What does it mean for Egyptian markets and economy?

Egyptian markets were wobbly in the wake of Tunisia, even before the protests flared up in Egypt. When protests erupted in Egypt on Tuesday, shares tumbled in the worst one-day fall in Egypt's main benchmark's history and the Egypt pound plunged to six-year lows.

Egypt's financial markets were closed on Friday, the Egyptian weekend. The markets will be in for a rough ride when they reopen on Sunday.

Foreign investors have poured billions of dollars of cash into Egypt since the appointment in 2004 of the current cabinet, which slashed taxes and customs duties.

That has helped deliver sturdy growth in recent years, now running at about 6 per cent, but the poor complain that the benefits are not trickling down.

Investors will worry over who will now take over key economic portfolios and whether reforms will be reversed.

"Egypt's future is bigger and more serious than to be left for economists alone," Mubarak said in his address after the protests.