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One dead in fresh Egypt clashes as election looms - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Egyptian military officers walk past a makeshift medical facility at a protest camp set up overnight outside the prime minister's office in Cairo as part of ongoing demonstrations calling for an end to the military rule on November 26, 2011. (AFP)

Egyptian military officers walk past a makeshift medical facility at a protest camp set up overnight outside the prime minister’s office in Cairo as part of ongoing demonstrations calling for an end to the military rule on November 26, 2011. (AFP)

CAIRO, (AFP) – One person died in fresh clashes on Saturday, as the rift between Egypt’s military rulers and activists who ousted Hosni Mubarak deepened just days before landmark polls.

The naming of a new prime minister, Kamal al-Ganzuri who once served as premier under Mubarak, failed to satisfy demands for change ahead of parliamentary elections due to start on Monday.

A 19-year-old demonstrator was fatally injured when police attacked a protest in front of the cabinet headquarters that rejected Ganzuri’s appointment.

The victim died of massive internal bleeding from multiple fractures to the pelvis, possibly caused by a heavy vehicle, a medic told AFP.

Witnesses said that a police van had charged into the demonstrators.

Thousands spent another night in Tahrir Square — the symbolic heart of protests that toppled Mubarak — where they vowed to stay until their demand of civilian rule is met.

Dozens of tents have been pitched, a rubbish collection station was set up and street vendors roamed the square in a sign that protesters were settling in for the long haul.

On Friday, Ganzuri — who served as Mubarak’s prime minister between 1996 and 1999 — assured Egyptians that the military had given him more powers than past cabinets, in a bid to placate protesters who accuse the SCAF of trying to retain control of the country.

“Previous cabinets over the past 60 years were given many powers by the president of the republic,” Ganzuri told reporters in his first public statement after his appointment.

In a later television address, Ganzuri said he would formalise his government “before the end of next week” and would allocate some portfolios to younger people.

But protesters in the square quickly rejected his appointment, saying he was not the man to lead a transition to democracy.

“We do not want someone who has been selected by the military council, we want a civilian who was with us in Tahrir during the revolution, someone who has the confidence of the people,” said one protester, Omar Abdel Mansur.

Hundreds of demonstrators in the square had branched off to the nearby cabinet offices to block Ganzuri from entering the building, chanting “revolution” and “Ganzuri is a former regime leftover.”

“Our mistake in the (January-February) revolution was to think that we had only to topple Mubarak,” one of the protesters, Mohammed Khattab, said.

The protesters proposed a list of presidential candidates to form a civilian leadership council, including former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent dissident during Mubarak’s rule.

They were bolstered earlier by an announcement that the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest authority, had thrown his weight behind them.

“The grand imam (Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb) backs you and is praying for your victory,” senior aide Hassan Shafie told them during a visit to the square, focus of huge protests first against Mubarak and now the army.

Sheikh Mazhar Shahin, an imam who led tens of thousands of worshippers in prayer at the square on Friday, said the protesters would stay there until their demands were met.

He called for a national salvation government with presidential powers.

ElBaradei joined the protesters in the square on Friday.

But the Tahrir protest was countered by a rival demonstration in a square about three kilometres (two miles) away, where more than 10,000 people gathered to show support for the military.

“Down with Tahrir” and “Yes to the military council,” they chanted.

“I joined the protests against the former regime,” said one of the protesters, Mohammed Abdelhamid. “But the people in Tahrir today don’t represent all Egyptians.”

The rallies came three days before the first parliamentary elections since Mubarak’s ouster in February, which left the military in charge.

The military announced on Friday that voting would take place over two days, instead of one, in each of the election’s three rounds.

Washington, a close ally of Egypt, called for a quick transfer to civilian rule.

“The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon renewed calls for the military rulers to ensure a “peaceful transition” after talks by telephone with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s military council.

“The secretary-general remains deeply concerned by the violence in Egypt over the last few days,” Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

“He reiterates his call for the transitional authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians.”

And on Saturday EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for an end to the violence in Egypt saying “the rule of law has to be maintained.”

On Tuesday, the SCAF accepted the resignation of the caretaker cabinet headed by the once-popular Essam Sharaf, whose fall from grace was due to his perceived weakness in the face of the army.

The violence, in which at least 41 protesters have been killed and more than 3,000 injured since Saturday, according to the health ministry, was cited as one of the factors that led to the cabinet’s resignation.

The SCAF has said repeatedly that it does not have political ambitions and plans to hand power to an elected civilian authority after presidential elections set to take place no later than the end of June 2012.

But it has also insisted it will not bow to pressure from the protesters in Tahrir, saying they do not represent the whole country.

A young Egyptian man holds a national flag while standing on a rooftop between Tahrir Square and the Interior Ministry in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2011. (AP)

A young Egyptian man holds a national flag while standing on a rooftop between Tahrir Square and the Interior Ministry in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2011. (AP)

Egyptian soldiers stand behind a barbed wire fence while guarding the Cabinet building near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. (AP)

Egyptian soldiers stand behind a barbed wire fence while guarding the Cabinet building near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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