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Egypt revolution: With a military junta in charge, now the politics start

Among the protest leaders, two camps are emerging. One wants to present its demands to the military junta, the other wants to continue the massive street protests as well until all demands are met.

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“I think making clear that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held within six months, putting a red line there and dissolving Parliament are good signs,” says Mr. Hamid. “The military has acted honorably and sent the right signs, for the most part, so far. But let’s keep in mind it’s only been a few days… if they were going to do something drastic, they wouldn’t do it right away.”

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So far, the commitment of Gen. Mohamed Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Military Council, to democratic reform and allowing civilian control of the presidency after 58 years of military-backed rule, appears reliable.

More demands

But Alaa Abd El Fattah, a democracy activist and blogger, taking a break from a Friday night strategy session of about 30 people on the roof of downtown Cairo’s Carlton Hotel, said he worries that the absence of a new cabinet of national unity could make pushing for democracy harder.

“At the moment, the military isn’t talking to anyone, I don’t think they really know who to talk to,” he said. “Right now, all the existing parties are trying to cut deals and get something for themselves – the longer this goes on, the better chance they have of success.”

The status of political prisoners – a group of activists demanded on Saturday that they all be immediately released – remains unclear. Mr. Fattah said there were some signs that prisoners have been released, but far from all.

Protests fading

By Sunday morning, the tens of thousands in Tahrir Square the night before had dropped to maybe a few thousand and most of the tents were gone. The night before, large groups of young men chanted through the square “we’ve won, go home” and most of the people present took that advice.

“I’m going home,” says Sameh Sabri, a bank employee and semi-professional musician collecting the trash at Tahrir Square. “We have to trust that military is going to deliver on their promises. If they don’t, we can always come back and protest again.”

To be sure, labor strikes are mushrooming across Egypt, a potent form of pressure on their own. But for the moment, it appears Egypt’s transition to democracy largely relies on the good will of the military.

By early afternoon Sunday, as traffic rather than protesters clogged Tahrir Square once more, troops waded in, dismantling the tents of the holdouts as shouting and shoving matches broke out. Around 30 protesters were briefly detained, though the military effort remained largely peaceful and a few thousand remained at Tahrir.

Labor actions continue

Meawhile, labor actions have continued, from factory workers to bank employees to a group of police in Cairo demanding better wages. Labor activists reported at least 10 strikes around the country, and there were undoubtedly more.

Deteriorating economic conditions for the Egyptian poor played a key and clear role in the mass mobilization that drove Mubarak from power and those underlying problems remain.

This afternoon, Prime Minister Shafiq said that lowering food prices is a government priority, but how that will be accomplished was left extremely vague.


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