Egypt protests: Tahrir Square deaths trigger cabinet's resignation
At least 24 have been killed in fresh Tahrir Square protests against the military junta. The cabinet resigned today, but many say the standoff can be ended only by significant concessions from the military.
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How the stand-off could end
The SCAF has botched its handling of Egypt’s transition period, not least this weekend, when the use of force on protesters over the past three days only increased both their numbers and resolve. Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, political science professor at Cairo University, says it is unclear if the council will handle the current crisis any better. Eventually, to end the demonstrations, it will be forced to offer concessions, he says. The question is how soon and how much.Skip to next paragraph
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Two ideas have been floated – the formation of a national coalition government, or a national consultative council to hold executive power. But neither would likely be accepted by protesters, Prof. Sayyid says.
“I think a cabinet that does not have full powers would not be satisfying to the demonstrators, and also a national consultative council would not be satisfying to them,” says Sayyid, who also teaches at the American University in Cairo. “The only thing that can stop this is for the SCAF to take some serious action to show that it is changing approach.”
Such actions would include ending the military trials of civilians, which the military has used to try more than 12,000 civilians since January, and holding police and soldiers responsible for killing protesters not only this weekend but at a largely Coptic protest on Oct. 9 and on multiple occasions before that.
But most important, the military council could fix a 2012 date for presidential elections. SCAF's current timeline will probably push presidential elections off to 2013. The military council has pledged to stay in power until a new president is elected.
Hisham Kassem, a prominent independent journalist and publisher, says the crisis will end “with elections.”
“[SCAF’s] sell-by date is approaching very quickly, they are lousy at running the country. But look at the political parties as they negotiated for the coalitions for the elections. There is no consensus. A national salvation government would be a disaster,” he says. “
“This ends with elections, as set by the military council, and a presidential election” early-to-mid next year.
Popular frustration with the military, but also with protesters
The military, seen by many Egyptians as the protector of the revolution when it refused to fire on civilians during the uprising early this year, has enjoyed high popularity. Yet the sustained nature of the fresh protests, and the numbers they have drawn, seem to indicate a growing tide of frustration with the military’s political leadership. The crowd in Tahrir is not the core of activists and politicized elites who turned against the military months ago, but includes many ordinary Egyptians, including people who did not participate in the uprising early this year.
Still, public opinion is divided, with many outside the square bitter that the protests are bringing instability to Egypt ahead of elections. “Those protesters are thugs, they are not from the people,” said Hassan Ahmed, a security guard. “They are stopping traffic and looting stores. They want the military to hand over power – to who? We need to have elections first.”
Analysts say the military is unlikely to delay elections set for next week, which would bring the wrath of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized group in Egypt. Instead, they will likely go forward in an environment of instability, at a time when some Egyptians were already deterred from the polls by fears of violence.
“We will go through the elections, but what's happening in Tahrir will increase the violence in the elections,” says Mr. Kassem, the human rights activist. “The leaders in Tahrir have on their hands the blood of the extra violence of the elections.”
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