Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday where they pressed their demand for an end to military rule despite the ruling military’s appointment of a new prime minister.
The number of protesters has continued to swell over the past week, in spite of a series of concessions announced by the leadership. At least 41 people have been killed in protest-related clashes across the country.
The unrest is taking place as Egypt prepares for the start of parliamentary elections on Monday. It will be the first polling since former President Hosni Mubarak’s February resignation amid a popular uprising.
On Friday, Egyptian authorities announced that voting will take place over two days, instead of one day. Reuters news quotes an Interior Ministry official as saying the change is designed to ease concerns about overcrowding and security issues.
Earlier Friday, newly appointed Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri said he would not be able to form a new Cabinet before Monday’s polling. He also said military rulers had given him more authority than his predecessor, Essam Sharaf.
Former Prime Minister Sharaf’s civilian Cabinet resigned earlier this week, as part of the government’s concessions to protesters. The government also announced that presidential elections would be held before July 2012.
The concessions have had little impact on the sentiments of protesters. Some protesters touted Friday’s so-called “million-man” rally as the “last chance” for the military council to quit. The French news agency said the imam leading noon prayers in Tahrir Square urged demonstrators to stay in the square until their demands were met.
Both the U.S. and the European Union on Friday urged Egypt to speed up the transition to civilian government.
Also Friday, three American students arrested during a protest in Egypt were released and were preparing to fly home.
Derrick Sweeney, Luke Gates and Gregory Porter attended American University in Cairo and were arrested Sunday on the roof of a building near Tahrir Square. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces who were fighting protesters.
- Cairo protesters insist army quit, reject new PM (rombizco.wordpress.com)