Egyptians take to the streets in tense Cairo after military appoints Mubarak’s man
EGYPTIANS flocked to Cairo’s Tahrir Square today to take part in what activists say will be the biggest day yet in a week of demonstrations which has claimed 41 lives so far.
This is in response to the appointment of a former prime minister of Hosni Mubarak’s to head up an interim government.
Egyptian state media reported that 78-year-old Kamal al-Ganzouri, who served under Mr Mubarak from 1996 to 1999, had agreed in principle to lead a “national salvation” government after meeting with the head of the ruling army council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
The appointment is being seen as an act of desperation by the military.
The generals are understood to have held negotiations with candidates seeking to contest next year’s presidential elections, including Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN chief nuclear weapons inspector.
Some moderate candidates are understood to have rejected the advances of the military fearing that any hints collaborating with the increasingly unpopular military leadership would damage their electoral chances.
Protesters are demanding that the military hands over full sovereignty to an interim civilian ruling council that would complete the transition to full democracy. The appointment of an official who served under Hosni Mubarak, the former president, will heighten the fears of protesters that the new civilian cabinet will have as little clout as the one it replaces. The previous cabinet tendered their resignation earlier this week.
The appointment came as an uneasy truce held in the environs of Cairo’s Tahrir Square after Egypt’s ruling generals apologised for the deaths of nearly 40 people since protests demanding their overthrow erupted six days ago.
The unusual display of contrition, which stood in stark contrast to the army’s previously threatening rhetoric, brought a lull to days of violent confrontation in the streets and alleys separating the square and the nearby interior ministry, a hated symbol of regime repression.
But it failed to end the protests themselves. By nightfall, the crowd in the square had swelled to tens of thousands and pro-reform activists said they planned to stage a major show of force in central Cairo after prayers on Friday.
Anxious to lower tensions in the build up to parliamentary elections on Monday, the first to be held since February’s overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the generals allowed elders to broker a five-day halt in the fighting.
In exchange, they agreed to release detained protesters and express their sorrow for the role the security forces in the recent bloodshed.