Egyptian Protesters Reject Military Concessions, Demand Officers Return to Barracks

On Wednesday morning there were clashes between protesters and the military at the Ministry of Interior, which the interim government feared might be invaded and/or torched. In Egypt, Interior is in charge of security police (Amn al-Dawlah), the force that is accused of using undue force and killing dozens of protesters since last Friday. The protesters are thus furious with the ministry.

There were also clashes in Alexandria between protesters and police in front of the municipality building, in which one demonstrator was killed.

Air Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the de facto military dictator of Egypt, attempted on Tuesday to mollify the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demonstrating in cities up and down the Nile Valley on Tuesday. In a major concession, he agreed to move elections for a new civilian president (i.e. for his own replacement) to no later than June 2012. The earlier plan had been to delay presidential elections until late in that year.

Tantawi alleged that the Egyptian military has no desire to remain in power and would retire to its barracks as soon as the president was elected. He even said that the military would leave sooner if a referendum of the Egyptian people demanded it. He said that parliamentary elections would be held beginning November 28 despite the turmoil. He officially accepted the resignation of the interim cabinet led by Essam Sharaf, but asked it to stay on until a new government could be appointed.

The groups gathered in Tahrir Square rejected the general’s speech, demanding that he “get out of here” (irhal!)

The referendum suggestion is particularly dishonest. Military governments often offer to hold referendums rather than real elections. There is no real way to tell if someone has lost a referendum. What would it take for Tantawi to step down? If 52% of Egyptians said he should, he could maintain that nearly half wanted him to stay.

Despite the withdrawal of the Muslim Brotherhood from the protest movement, tens of thousands thronged to Tahrir Square on Tuesday, in massive defiance of the military and security forces that had tried to clear the square when protesters began demanding that the military give up power. Two demonstrators were killed in Cairo on Tuesday.

Aljazeera English reports:

The military council met with a half dozen parties that are running in next week’s election, including the Muslim Brotherhood but also the Wafd. Amr Moussa, former head of the Arab League and now presidential candidate, was there.

The center-right Wafd Party urged that the Nov. 28 elections be postponed two weeks, while the better-organized Muslim religious parties demanded that they be held on schedule.

Presidential candidate Mohammed Elbaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, declined to attend the meeting with the military council, but has been spoken of as a potential interim appointed prime minister. The Wafd newspaper reported Wednesday morning that Elbaradei had written to the military council offering to form a government of national unity, but only if the officers explicitly pledged to refrain from interfering with the interim civilian government’s decision-making and policies.

Posted in Egypt | 5 Responses | Print |

5 Responses

  1. Egypt, you have done it the wrong way round: Not the Army should have accepted the resignation of the Cabinet, but the Cabinet should have accepted the resignation of the Army.

  2. Isn’t he Field Marshal Tantawi, an army rank?

    Hosni Mubarak was an Air Force General.

    Air Marshal is a UK rank.

    The different branches of the servcie will skew defence spending towards their specialism.

  3. I’d appreciate your thoughts regarding the report in the NYTimes today that some younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood have rejected the Brotherhood’s compromise with the military and have instead continued to support the protests.

  4. The head of the Military Council is Field Marshal Tantawi, i.e. equivalent to a “5-star” general. An “Air Marshal” is the air force equivalent of a lieutenant general, a 3-star rank. Tantawi is Egypt’s most senior army officer.

  5. The problem is not getting the military back in its barracks, the problem is getting it out of the many factories it owns. That’s what it’s fighting to hold onto, which requires a captive government. Egyptians may still have too much patriotism to accuse the officer corps of lusting after those profits just as much as its former commander did. But what other wealth is there to be had in Egypt?

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