Egypt’s political crisis deepened after tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square demanded the country’s top general step down and rejected an offer by the ruling military council to speed up the transition to civilian rule.
Demonstrations and clashes continued in several cities Wednesday,
with one man shot dead by security forces in the northern port city of
Alexandria. Police have denied using live ammunition, but most of the 30
people killed nationwide during the latest unrest have suffered bullet
The head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mohamed Tantawi,
vowed in a rare public address Tuesday to hold presidential elections
by July 2012 and suggested he is willing to hold a referendum on whether
military rule should end earlier.
The proposal is seen by many as a ploy designed to appeal to the many
Egyptians who fear further upheaval and to divide them from youth
Tantawi’s speech followed crisis talks with political and Islamist
groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which is expected to win a
major share of parliament in staggered elections scheduled to begin
Monday. Most liberal and secular opposition parties – who have called on
the military to immediately cede power – declined to attend the
meeting. They accuse the Brotherhood of selling out the revolution for
short-term political gain.
Egypt’s parliamentary elections have been hastily organized by the
military. While Tantawi pledged Tuesday that the polls would go forward
as planned, many opposition leaders believe that to be increasingly
Tantawi also told the nation Tuesday he had accepted the resignation
of the civilian Cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, but that it will
remain in place until a new government is formed.
Protesters vowed not to leave Cairo’s Tahrir Square until the
military council steps down. Clashes between police and demonstrators
angry at Tantawi’s speech erupted in several other cities, including
Alexandria, Suez and Ismailiya.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department condemned “the excessive use
of force by police” and urged restraint.
In an apparent concession to demonstrators, the military council
earlier issued a law that bans anyone convicted of corruption from
running for office or holding a government position. The move could
restrict members of ex-president Hosni Mubarak’s former ruling party
from competing in the upcoming elections.
Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Egypt’s rulers of brutality
sometimes exceeding that of Mubarak.
Some information for this report
was provided by AP and Reuters.