David Blair: Egypt's military leaders cling to their bad old ways
Protesters have returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo in force because the army has not relinquished its stranglehold on power in the country, writes David Blair
Less than a year ago, when Tahrir Square was clogged by nothing more dangerous than Cairo's notorious traffic, Egypt's weary people would offer shrugs of cynical indifference over the self-serving transgressions of their rulers. The violence of the past three days, claiming some 20 lives and filling the centre of the capital with battle and clouds of noxious tear gas, serves as a vivid reminder that Hosni Mubarak's downfall has transformed the politics of his country.
Emboldened by their successful revolution nine months ago, ordinary Egyptians are no longer prepared to tolerate the behaviour of their leaders. This message seems to have got through to the country's civilian cabinet ministers, all of whom offered their resignations last night. But it appears lost on the shadowy generals who have been the real power in Egypt since Mr Mubarak fled Cairo in February.
When they proposed last week to guarantee the military budget against any scrutiny, while also giving themselves the power to veto the new, post-dictatorship constitution that should be finalised next year, the generals appeared to calculate that the population would respond with nothing more than the traditional grumbles and hand-wringing.