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News, November 2011
Egyptians Continue Protests Against Military Council in Tahrir Square
November 26, 2011
One dead after Egyptian protesters clash with police
By Marwa Awad
CAIRO | Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:28am EST
CAIRO (Reuters) -
Egyptian protesters demanding an end to army rule clashed with police firing tear gas in central Cairo on Saturday in a flare-up that cast another shadow over a parliamentary election billed as the nation's first free vote in decades.
Two days of voting begin on Monday in the first stage of a complex, drawn-out election that will be completed in January.
One protester, Ahmed Sayed, 21, died after being hit by a state security vehicle in the clashes. His death was the first since a truce between police and demonstrators on Thursday calmed violence that had killed 41 people in Cairo and elsewhere.
Alarmed by the violence, the United States and the European Union have urged a swift handover to civilian rule in a country where prolonged political turmoil has compounded economic woes.
The latest clash occurred near the cabinet office on the second day of a sit-in to protest against the army's appointment of 78-year-old Kamal Ganzouri, a premier under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, to form a "national salvation government."
An army source said the ruling military council held separate talks with presidential candidates Mohamed El-Baradei and Amr Moussa. "I met Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi over the current crisis and discussed ways to resolve it," Moussa told Reuters later, but gave no details.
Protest groups have named ElBaradei as their choice to head a civilian body to supervise Egypt's transition to democracy instead of the army council that took over from Mubarak.
Ganzouri, who told Reuters he had yet to start forming his cabinet, met with youth activists, but the April 6 movement, prominent in the anti-Mubarak revolt, disavowed those involved, saying they were "planted by the military council."
Tahrir protesters have dismissed Ganzouri, premier from 1996 to 1999, as another face from the past whose appointment reflects the generals' resistance to change.
A television clip circulated on YouTube in the past 24 hours shows Ganzouri sitting one seat away from Tantawi on January 25, the first day of Egypt's uprising, as they listen to a speech by former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli, who is on trial with Mubarak on charges of ordering protesters to be killed.
"Down, down with the marshal," a group chanted in Tahrir, near tents set up on grassy patches. They were referring to Tantawi, who was Mubarak's defense minister for 20 years.
The Interior Ministry said the protester had been killed by accident, an account backed by Ahmad Zeidan, 18, an activist at the sit-in who said he had seen the youth being run over.
"It wasn't deliberate. They (police) were retreating quickly because (protesters) were throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at them," he said. The demonstrators had come from Tahrir to confront police vehicles apparently heading for the square.
The turmoil of the past week has overshadowed the election, whose initial stage involves Cairo, Alexandria and other areas.
One declared reason for the polling marathon is because judges, who retain public respect for their independence, will supervise the election and there are not enough of them available for a single day of nationwide voting.
Reflecting security concerns, Ahmed al-Zind, head of Egypt's Judges Club, told a news conference the organization had taken out private insurance to cover all the judges involved.
Protesters in Tahrir seemed in two minds about the election.
Emad Mohamed, 35, wearing a hat in Egyptian national colors, had no faith in the vote, saying it would enable Mubarak-era politicians to make a come-back. "We do not think it is in our interest. Where are the new parties?" he asked.
But Yasser Nasr, assisting at a makeshift clinic, said: "They cannot delay elections. It will mess up the situation. Once they happen, hopefully things will improve."
The Muslim Brotherhood and other mainstream parties which have not joined the protesters in Tahrir want the election to go ahead, eager to establish a strong presence in parliament.
They have accepted the army's transition timetable, but the demonstrators are demanding an immediate end to military rule.
Instead, the generals have promised that a new president will be elected by mid-2012, sooner than previously announced.
While tens of thousands packed Tahrir Square for what activists dubbed "Last Chance Friday," at least 5,000 people demonstrated in support of the army in another Cairo square, highlighting splits between youngsters bent on radical reform and more cautious Egyptians keen to restore normality.
Ganzouri described his task as thankless and "extremely difficult," saying his priority was to secure the streets and revive the economy. Egypt's pound has hit a seven-year low and foreign reserves have dropped by a third since December 2010.
Protest groups have called for another mass rally on Sunday to press demands for an immediate transfer of power from the military to a civilian national salvation government.
Tahrir Square anti-military protests go on unabated
Capping days of turmoil, protesters at Cairo's Tahrir Square demanding an end to army rule continued to clash with police on Saturday, after rejecting the military’s appointment of a new prime minister.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - Protesters pressed their demand for an end to army rule in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday and some clashed briefly with police nearby, rejecting the military's choice of prime minister just two days before a parliamentary vote.
Hundreds of demonstrators camped through the night and one group marched to the nearby parliament building early in the morning to protest against the army's appointment of Kamal Ganzouri, a premier under Hosni Mubarak, to form a cabinet.
Police dispersed the crowd with teargas and protesters said at least four people were wounded, witnesses said. The brief flare-up was the first outbreak of violence since a truce two days earlier ended a week of clashes that killed 41 people.
"Down, down with the marshal," a group chanted in the square, near tents set up on grassy patches. They were referring to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling army council and was also Mubarak's defence minister.
Tens of thousands gathered on Friday to demand the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces speed up a transition to democracy which they believe requires the generals to leave power now.
The political turmoil and violence are compounding the economic woes of a country where livelihoods have been hit by a year of turmoil after Mubarak was toppled.
The generals have shown no sign of giving way to the demand to quit now. Instead, they have responded by promising that a new president would be elected by mid-2012, sooner than previously announced, and appointing Ganzouri, 78, to head a "national salvation government".
Speaking to the media on Friday, Ganzouri described his task as thankless and "extremely difficult" and listed his priorities as securing the streets and reviving the economy. Egypt's pound has weakened to its lowest level in seven years.
The Tahrir protesters have dismissed Ganzouri, premier from 1996 to 1999, as another face from the past whose appointment reflects the generals' resistance to change.
"Why are they picking Ganzouri now? This shows that the army is unwilling to let go of any power by recycling a former ally. This government won't have any powers, why else pick someone that is loyal to them?" asked protester Mohamed El Meligy, 20.
Tahrir Square and the surrounding streets were relatively calm on Friday after the deployment of extra security forces in areas where youths had clashed with police earlier this week.
The violence has fuelled public anger at the military council and drawn more protesters to Tahrir Square.
In a boost to the military council, several thousand protesters demonstrated in support of the generals' role in another Cairo square on Friday - an echo from the last days of Mubarak's rule when loyalists took to the streets.
The demonstration highlighted the division between revolutionary youths wanting to overhaul the whole system and more cautious Egyptians keen to restore normality.
Ganzouri's appointment has reinforced that divide.
"I favour him. He is a very good man, he did a lot of good
things. If he had continued in his role (in 1999) the situation
would have been much better," said restaurant worker Osama Amara,
In Tahrir, where the main political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party have avoided demonstrating this week, some protesters said the vote should be delayed.
The Brotherhood, Egypt's best organised political force, wants the election to go ahead as scheduled.
"Believe me, I don't know who I am going to vote for," said Hoda Ragab, a 55-year-old woman at Friday's protest in Tahrir.
"In all sincerity, it's because I don't have any programme for any party in these conditions. It would be better for the elections to be delayed a week or two, so we can get over these problems."
Death toll rises after clashes outside Egypt’s cabinet
Hadeel Al-Shalchi CAIRO, Egypt
The Associated Press
Last updated Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, 10:10AM EST
Egyptian security forces clashed with protesters camped outside the Cabinet building Saturday, leaving one man dead, as tensions rose two days ahead of parliamentary elections being held despite mass demonstrations against military rule.
The violence occurred as a wave of protests against military rule was given extra impetus by the Egyptian military's decision on Friday to appoint a Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri who served under deposed President Hosni Mubarak.
More related to this story
The Obama administration has increased pressure on Egypt's military rulers, who took over from Mubarak, to transfer power to civilian leaders throwing its support behind protesters massed on Cairo's central Tahrir Square for more than a week.
More than 100,000 demonstrators packed into the square on Friday in the biggest rally since the current unrest began. They rejected Mr. el-Ganzouri's appointment and presented an alternative to Mr. el-Ganzouri. By midday Saturday, the crowd size dwindled to some 5,000 on Saturday afternoon.
Twenty-four protest groups, including two political parties, have announced they are creating their own “national salvation” government to be headed by Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei with deputies from across the political spectrum to which they demanded the military hand over power.
Egyptian state TV said that the head of the ruling military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi met separately with Mr. ElBaradei and another presidential hopeful Amr Moussa, who was the former Arab League chief, on Saturday, but it gave no details.
Hundreds also set up camp outside the Cabinet building, spending the night in blankets and tents to prevent the 78-year-old politician from entering to take up his new post. Early Saturday, they clashed with security forces who allegedly tried to disperse them.
An Associated Press cameraman saw three police troop carriers and an armored vehicle firing tear gas as they were being chased from the site by rock-throwing protesters.
The man who was killed was run over by one of the vehicles, but there were conflicting accounts about the circumstances surrounding the death.
The Interior Ministry expressed regret for the death of the protester, identified as Ahmed Serour, and said it was an accident. Police didn't intend to storm the sit-in but were merely heading to the Interior Ministry headquarters, located behind the Cabinet building, when they came under attack by angry protesters throwing firebombs, it said in a statement. The ministry claimed security forces were injured and the driver of one of the vehicles panicked and ran over the protester.
One of the protesters, Mohammed Zaghloul, 21, said he saw six security vehicles heading to their site.
“It became very tense, rock throwing started and the police cars were driving like crazy,” he said. “Police threw one tear gas canister and all of a sudden we saw our people carrying the body of a man who was bleeding really badly.”
Officials say more than 40 people have been killed across the country since Nov. 19, when the unrest began after a small sit-in by protesters injured during the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak was violently broken up by security forces. That led to days of clashes, which ended with a truce on Thursday. It wasn't clear if the melee on Saturday was an isolated incident or part of new violence by security forces trying to clear the way for the new prime minister, and protesters frustrated by what they believe are the military's efforts to perpetuate the old regime.
“El-Ganzouri was pulled out of his grave. He was a dead man,” said a 39-year-old employee Ahmad Anas as chants against the head of the military council rang outside the Cabinet building: “Tantawi and el-Ganzouri are choking me.” A banner hanging over the building gates read: “closed until execution of field marshal.”
Mr. El-Ganzouri served as prime minister under Mubarak between 1996 and 1999. His name has been associated with failed mega projects including Toshka, an ambitious expensive scheme to divert Nile water at the southern tip of Egypt to create a second Nile Valley. The project has cost billions and barely gotten off the ground.
The military's appointment of Mr. el-Ganzouri, its apology for the death of protesters and a series of partial concessions in the past two days suggest that the generals are struggling to overcome the most serious challenge to their nine-month rule, with fewer options now available to them.
Hala al-Kousy, a 37-year-protester, vowed that protesters will not leave the square until the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the formal name of the military's ruling council, gives up power.
“Our main goal is to have SCAR step down. They have patience and so do we,” al-Kousy said. “They are willing to wait and so are we.”
The latest crisis has overshadowed Monday's start of Egypt's first parliamentary elections since Mubarak was replaced by the military council. The vote, which the generals say will be held on schedule despite the unrest, is now seen by many activists and protesters to be serving the military's efforts to project an image of itself as the nation's saviors and true democrats.
The next parliament is expected to be dominated by the country's most organized Muslim Brotherhood group, who decided to boycott the ongoing protests to keep from doing anything that could derail the election. However, the outcome of the vote is likely to be seen as flawed given the growing unrest and the suspension by many candidates of their campaigns in solidarity with the protesters.
Protesters were divided on whether to participate in elections.
“I don't agree with el-Ganzouri because he is too old and we don't want anybody who use to be a symbol of the old regime,” protester Nevine Mustafa, 40, said. She added that she plans to vote even though she believes the elections should be postponed because of the unrest. “I still have a role to play and I need my voice to be heard.”
Manal al-Adawy, however, said she was boycotting the vote.
“As long as the military council appoints people who were Mubarak's slaves, we will continue this sit-in,” the 35-year-old protester. “I am not going to vote in the elections because I don't want to give the military or the elections, legitimacy.”
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