Noticeably smaller turnout than on Wednesday in a third of the country’s 27 provinces.
|Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh was on the ground in Cairo when protesters were being attacked by the military|
Hundreds of protesters have returned to the streets of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, a day after at least eight people were killed when soldiers stormed an anti-military protest camp outside the parliament building.
Renewed fighting erupted between protesters and security forces again on Saturday, as the streets leading to the parliament building and nearby Tahrir Square – the epicentre of the protest movement – began to fill with activists.
The fresh clashes followed a day of deadly fighting between military soldiers and protesters that left more than 317 people injured on Friday, according to the country’s state news agency, which cited the health ministry.
Egypt’s prime minister, Kamal el-Ganzouri, addressed the violence in a news conference on Saturday, saying the fighting was an attack on the country’s revolution.
“This is not a revolution, but a counter-revolution,” he said. “Those who are in Tahrir Square are not the youth of the revolution.”
He added that his government would not confront peaceful demonstrations with any force, but he said protesters “threw rocks and destroyed everything they came across”.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said the “overall impression that came out from the prime minister was that he was blaming the protesters”.
The fighting began after images were published online of the badly bruised face of an activist, who said he had been detained by military police at a sit-in outside cabinet the previous day and beaten.
The news infuriated protesters, who set cars alight and threw stones at security forces.
Security forces responded by firing shots in the air before storming the camp, beating demonstrators with sticks and hurling chunks of concrete from the roof of the parliament building.
“Very ugly scenes witnessed here throughout the day, including scenes of men in uniform perched on the rooftops of buildings, throwing whatever they can lay their hands on on protesters, including sheets of glass, bottles, rocks and at one point even furniture”, our correspondent reported on Friday.
“Very unpleasant scenes, including some of these soldiers gesturing obscenely towards the protesters, and one of them even at one point urinating on the protesters gathered below,” she said.
Protesters have been occupying the area in front of the cabinet office for more than two weeks, preventing Ganzouri and his cabinet from meeting there. They are demanding that the country’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) immediately cede authority to a civilian government.
The military council issued a statement blaming Friday’s violence on the protesters, saying that the clashes were part of a conspiracy to derail the country’s elections process, which is ongoing.
It said it would continue to act firmly against any attempts to overrun government buildings, and that its soldiers did not move to disrupt the sit-in.
It denied that tear gas or live ammunition had been used, and said the issue would be transferred to the Egyptian prosecutor’s office to be investigated.
Council members resign
Amid the violence, Moez Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Khairy, members of the newly formed advisory council set up by SCAF, resigned in protest against the military’s actions.
The council itself met in the capital to discuss the situation, with reports indicating that several other members were also considering resigning.
The military, in charge since president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in February, has said it will step down once a president is elected by the end of June next year.
The clashes came as Egypt ended its second round of voting in a long and complicated election process that began on November 28. Voting took place in parts of greater Cairo, Ismailiya and Suez in the east, Aswan in the south and in the Nile Delta regions in the north.
According to state media both the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Salafi al-Nour party have consolidated their lead over the coalition of liberal parties.
Results from the latest round of voting, which concluded on Thursday, are due in the coming days.