Saturday, November 26, 2011

Egypt protests continue despite military concessions

BBC News
Egypt unrest: Army concessions fail to end Cairo unrest

23 November 2011

Thousands of Egyptians have continued to occupy Cairo's Tahrir Square despite an offer from the military for a speedier handover to civilian rule.

After four days of violent clashes, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said presidential elections would be held by July 2012.

But many protesters in the square said the concession was not enough and have demanded the field marshal step down.

Clashes continued between police and protesters in Cairo early on Wednesday.

Television pictures from Tahrir Square showed ambulances arriving to pick up the injured.

At least 30 people have been killed since Saturday and hundreds injured, officials say.

Police have been using tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot against protesters who have been throwing stones.

Some protesters said live bullets had been fired.

There have also been clashes in several Egyptian cities including Alexandria, Suez, Port Said and Aswan.


Egypt's ruling military council had previously said presidential elections might not happen until late 2012 or 2013.

That move, coupled with a draft constitution produced earlier in the month that would exempt the military and its budget from civilian oversight, prompted a mass demonstration in Tahrir Square on Friday.

Events turned violent when security forces attempted to remove the protesters from the square at the weekend.

Many Egyptians have become frustrated with the slow pace of political reforms since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown as president in February after a wave of mass demonstrations.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (or SCAF) then took charge and promised to implement the transition to civilian rule.

Speaking on national TV on Tuesday, SCAF leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said parliamentary elections scheduled to begin on 28 November would be held as planned.

Those polls, scheduled to take place over three months, are due to set in train the transition to democracy.

Field Marshal Tantawi said soldiers did not aspire to govern: "They are fully prepared to immediately hand over power and to return to their original duty in protecting the homeland."

He also said he had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharif's cabinet - appointed by the military.

A referendum would then approve the document before a presidential election was held. That would mean the military remaining in power until late 2012 or early 2013.

Protesters, however, had demanded the presidential vote take place after the parliamentary elections.


The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says that when the army first took over earlier in the year, they had the trust of the overwhelming majority of ordinary Egyptians - but now the protesters want them to hand over power immediately.

In some ways it is more of a revolution, as the demonstrators are ranged against the traditional opposition - notably the Muslim Brotherhood - as well as the military, our correspondent adds.

After Field Marshal Tantawi spoke, protesters in Tahrir Square chanted: "We are not leaving, he (Tantawi) leaves."

"We are not happy with this speech," a protester named Tamer Lokman told the BBC's Yolande Knell in Tahrir Square.

"It reminded us of those made by the former president, Hosni Mubarak when he didn't answer our demands," he said.

Another protester told AFP news agency: "Tantawi is Mubarak, copy pasted. He's Mubarak in a military uniform."

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