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Will Egypt's Tahrir protests today dislodge military control?

It was one of Egypt's biggest demonstrations since Mubarak was toppled, a show of force against military efforts to maintain control. Amr Moussa recently discussed some of the key issues in an interview.

By Staff writer / November 18, 2011

Protesters chant slogans Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Thousands are rallying in Tahrir square, with Islamists in the forefront, in a protest against what they say are attempts by the country's military rulers to reinforce their powers.

Khalil Hamra/AP

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Today's big rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square – upwards of 100,000, judging by photographs of the crowd – was different than the ones that toppled Hosni Mubarak last February.

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Then, a small group of secular activists rolled the dice with online organizing and street-level activism, called for a massive show of people power, and won. Egypt's Islamists, particularly the highly organized and disciplined Muslim Brotherhood, came late to the party. While they were a presence on Tahrir during the revolution, they were mostly bandwagon jumpers. 

Not this time. But what brought them out – along with many secular activists as well – was fundamentally the same issue that drove out Mubarak, and saw the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) take control earlier this year: Civilian control of Egypt's future. (Kristen Chick covered the protests on the ground for us.)

One of the central tensions behind today's protests was to what degree the military should or will have a hand in writing Egypt's new constitution once a new parliament is elected – a two-month process that begins Nov. 28. That document, whose writing will be overseen by the new parliament, will determine whether Egypt will retain its current strong presidency, or whether parliament will come to have a greater role.

How a top presidential candidate sees the future

Last week, I sat down with two other reporters to talk to presidential candidate Amr Moussa about Egypt's future. Mr. Moussa, who served a decade as Mubarak's foreign minister, and then was shuffled off to run the Arab League in 2001 when his star appeared dangerously ascendant to his boss (a decade ago, backroom jockeying to succeed Mubarak had already begun), is running for president, is now probably a front-runner for the Egyptian presidency. 

In the interview, Moussa touched on concerns about the military remaining in power for too long (he agreed) but also seemed to accept that the next Egyptian Constitution should not be left entirely in the hands of Egypt's next Parliament.

The country's history since the 1950s has been one of a strong presidency (the head of state controls the government) and a second-class Parliament. Moussa, very much a secular establishment figure, thinks that situation should persist, at least in the short term.

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