Monday 1 May 2017

Egyptian military says elections will go ahead Rulers promise vote next week despite violent unrest

Maggie Michael in Cairo

Egypt's military rulers promised last night that parliamentary elections will start on schedule next week, despite a rising tide of violent opposition.

The ruling generals also dismissed protesters' calls for them to immediately step down.

Resigning now would amount to a "betrayal" of the people's trust after the military took over from ousted president Hosni Mubarak by popular demand, they said.

"There will be no postponement in the election," said Major General Mamdouh Shaheen, one of two members of the ruling military council who spoke at a televised news conference.

The comments suggested that the council, led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mr Mubarak's defence minister for 20 years, has no intention of making more concessions under pressure from tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 18-day uprising that toppled Mr Mubarak nine months ago.

The second council member, Major General Mukhtar el-Mallah, said stepping down immediately would be a "betrayal of the trust placed in our hands by the people". He said the throngs in Tahrir did not represent the whole of Egypt.

Relinquish

"We will not relinquish power because a slogan-chanting crowd said so. . . being in power is not a blessing. It is a curse. It's a very heavy responsibility."

Earlier in the day, the military apologised for the deaths of dozens of pro-democracy protesters since Saturday and vowed to prosecute those responsible, its latest attempt to appease the protesters.

Tahrir Square was quieter yesterday after five days of intense clashes. Police and protesters agreed to a truce negotiated by Muslim clerics after the clashes that have left nearly 40 dead and more than 2,000 injured. The truce came into force around 6am and was holding by sunset, when thousands streamed into the square to join protesters there.

Thousands chanted "we are not leaving, he leaves", referring to Mr Tantawi. Others chanted: "Go away marshal, Egypt will not be ruled by a field marshal."

The military's handling of the transitional period has been intensely criticised by rights groups and activists, who suspect the generals want to keep power even after a new parliament is seated and a new president is elected.

Irish Independent

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