Egypt’s military rulers have agreed to form a new government and promise to transfer power to a civilian body by July.
Politicians say the agreement was made during a crisis meeting on Tuesday as tens of thousands of Egyptians protested in the streets against continuing military rule. They say negotiators also agreed to start holding parliamentary elections on November 28, as scheduled, with a goal of holding a presidential election before the end of June 2012.
Word of the agreement was met with scattered displeasure in the crowd that packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square. There are continued calls among protesters to see military rule end immediately.
The demonstrations are getting larger, and the calls for the military to step down now – not next year – louder. Tuesday’s crowd is the biggest to mass in Tahrir Square since the unrest began four days ago. Men, women, young and old, are united in their demand that civilian rule begin now.
“As you can see, not just one type of Egyptian here. All the Egyptian here: Islamic, liberal or communist. Everyone is here. Egyptian and Muslims and Christians. Everyone is here,” one protester said.
Some believe the momentum of the unrest, sparked by a proposal that the military rulers prolong their political influence, will speak for itself.
“A lot of the candidates for president or political parties, they are invited for a meeting today to interview the military council. But they didn’t hear [from] the people We want the military to leave. It’s over. No one can speak on behalf of the Egyptian people right now,” said another protester.
With suspicions high about self-declared representatives of the people, the crowd is turning increasingly angry, not just at the bloodshed, but at fears about what – and who – comes next.
Japhet Weeks’ report from Tahrir Square:
Editor and political analyst Rania el Malki says the unity of purpose seen among protesters back in January has been destroyed.
“People are very much aware of their differences and different attitudes and I think no, unfortunately this kind of solidarity is gone. And over the past nine months I think SCAF has managed to fragment the political street beyond cure,” Elmalki said.
Many are keen that elections, set to begin next Monday, will be one way forward. But not everyone on Tahrir Square is looking toward a democratic solution.
One man sitting in the square pointed with pride to the wounds he had suffered.
“After I take this, and this and this and other places in my body, I feel free. I hope to be killed here, to find Allah. That’s all,” said one protester.
Another protester is quick to point out such fundamentalist beliefs are “not [his] Islam.” He accuses extremists, in particular their politically savvy leaders, of trying to hijack the new protests. “They are now trying to show up, to show the world that they are leading the people and they are against something in the government. They are not.”
But with the SCAF in command, it would appear that to meet protesters’ demands they need someone to hand power to, something made more difficult now that the interim civilian leaders are resigning. But editor el Malki doesn’t hold out much hope for the army leadership’s attempts at engaging the opposition.
“They are thinking with the mentality of the old Egypt. The military rulers, the generals are still Mubarak’s people and they are behaving towards the Egyptian people as if they are the end all and be all of decisions. They are engaging in a political monologue, that they’re refusing to listen to any other version of how the process of the transition to democracy an be managed,” Elmaki said.
But even if the standoff continues, most on Tahrir square say they want to go ahead with elections and get the representation – whatever it may be – they desperately want.