Thousands of people have taken to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest against the handling of the nation’s transition period by the ruling military council following the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Friday’s demonstrators called for a quick exit of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and that officials from the ousted president’s government be barred from May’s upcoming presidential election.
Protesters gathered in the square chanted, “down with military rule”, referring to the military’s leadership role since the fall of Mubarak following protests in February of last year.
Supporters of presidential canididates who were barred from standing earlier this month accused the generals of “hijacking” last spring’s revolution.
The crowds, growing throughout the day, have called for the military to hand over power to civilians.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Tahrir Square, said Friday’s rally was the most inclusive of recent demonstrations in the square.
“There are more than 20 political parties and political groups represented here” he said.
Following calls for unity among the gatherers, protesters began chanting “one hand, one hand, one hand”.
The chant is a modified version of one made famous during the February uprising when millions gathered throughout the country chanting “the army and the people are one hand”.
However, our correspondent said that despite the brief moments of unity during prayers, separate areas have been established for the various political factions gathered.
“There is a group for the Salafi movement – the ultraconservatives – an area for the Muslim Brotherhood, and an area for those who see themselves as liberals,” Hanna said.
Though the geographical separations within the square show the political rifts among the Egyptian people, our correspondent said, “the one point of unity” among the thousands gathered in Cairo is that those affiliated with Mubarak and his government not be allowed into the nation’s political future.
A new law drafted by parliament last week would bar any Mubarak-era officials from taking part in the presidential election scheduled for May 23 and 24.
The law, drafted in response to former Mubarak spy chief Omar Suleiman’s decision to run for presidency, must be passed by the ruling military council to take effect.
Though Suleiman, believed to be the military’s favoured candidate, has been barring from running, MPs hope the law, if passed, will also disqualify Ahmed Shafiq, the former prime minister in power during the final days of Mubarak’s rule.
SCAF has requested that the consitutional court rule on the amendment law governing political rights.
The Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to issue its ruling within 15 days.