Cairo readies for more election protests

Activists call “Legitimacy of the Revolution” rally to demand immediate end to military rule, one day ahead of election.


Egyptian activists are preparing for another massive protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand an immediate end to military rule one day ahead of the country’s parliamentary polls.

Sunday’s “Legitimacy of the Revolution” rally will follow more than a week of protests in the centre of the capital, where demonstrators have been calling for the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to hand power to a civilian government.

Amid the preparations for the rally, Mohamed ElBaradei, a prospective Egyptian presidential candidate, announced he would drop his bid to be head of state if SCAF allowed him to become the interim prime minister.

His announcement on Saturday came several hours after a meeting with ruling SCAF officials, as the country’s leaders attempt to quiet a series of massive rallies that began last Friday.

Protesters in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the movement that led to the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak in February, have repreatedly proposed ElBaradei as the person to lead a transition to democratic rule.

ElBaradei, the former head of the UN nuclear agency, said he was “willing to respond to the demands of the youth of the revolution and the political forces calling for a national salvation government that represents all the national forces”.

His statement comes amid an eruption of political upheaval, with anti-military rallies threatening to eclipse Monday’s parliamentary elections, which are to be held over a three-month period.

Deathly dispersal

Tensions in the capital threatened to spill over on Saturday after one protester was killed during a sit-in outside parliament.

Witnesses said Ahmed Sayed Sorour was run over by a police vehicle when security forces entered the street on which protesters had gathered to disperse the protest.

“The interior ministry came out with a statement saying it was an accident, but I think that six [police] trucks is no accident” 

– Sarrah Abdelrahman, blogger and activist

Protesters had marched to the parliament and cabinet buildings to demonstrate against the appointment of Kamal el-Ganzouri, a former prime minister under Mubarak, as the country’s new premier.

Sarrah Abdelrahman, a blogger and activist, was among the protesters who rushed to the morgue following the death of Sourour.

“Police attacked protesters, they were trying to evict us from the square,” she told Al Jazeera.

“We were chanting and then all of a sudden, they started approaching and people were throwing stones.

“Then they abruptly and hysterically started going back – all of the trucks – so they bumped into each other and they also ran over a protester.”

The interior ministry expressed regret for the death of Sorour and said it was an accident.

But the ministry also said that protesters were partially to blame for throwing Molotov cocktails at the armed police vehicles.

“The interior ministry came out with a statement saying it was an accident, but I think that six [police] trucks is no accident,” Abdelrahman said.

Strong resolve

Protesters said the incident had strengthened their resolve, and hundreds of protesters continued the sit-in in front of parliament through the night.

The death of Sorour was the latest since clashes broke out on November 19 between protesters and security forces.

At least 42 people have been killed and more than 3,250 have been wounded across Egypt in the violence.

Demonstrators have vowed not to leave Tahrir Square until the military steps down in favour of a civilian presidential council. Their show of resolve resembles that of the rallies which forced Mubarak to relinquish power.

The military has rejected calls to immediately step down, saying its claim to power is supported by the warm welcome given to troops who took over the streets from the discredited police early in the anti-Mubarak uprising, as well as an overwhelming endorsement for constitutional amendments they proposed in a March referendum.

Despite the continued protest threat, the military has said parliamentary elections will be held on schedule.

Voting in each phase of the three-stage parliamentary election will be held over two days instead of one, SCAF announced on Friday. The first polls open on Monday and the process concludes in March.

Source: Al Jazeera