Egypt is virtually rudderless as morning breaks on Tuesday. Interim prime minister Essam Sharaf and his cabinet tendered their resignations in protest against the use of violence against protesters in Tahrir Square. The demonstrators had been demanding that the military withdraw its “Silmi Communique,” which pledged military oversight of the next Egyptian government, put the military budget off limits to the civilian authorities, and gave the military veto over articles in the new constitution before they went to the electorate for a referendum.
Sharaf’s cabinet apparently is willing to stay on for a short period until another interim government can announced.
One possibility being considered by the military, according to one Arabic newspaper, would be to appoint Mohammed Elbaradei (a presidential candidate and former head of the IAEA at the UN) to form a government of national unity.
Some 20,000 protesters were in Tahrir Square on Monday night. On Tuesday morning, smaller crowds of protesters had gathered again in in downtown Cairo. In Alexandria late Monday, 5000 protesters surrounded a central security building. In the port city of Ismailiya, an angry crowd of 4,000 gathered, and two were killed when police fired on them.
Aljazeera English reports that protesters are calling for a million-person march on Tuesday afternoon.
But the powerful Muslim Brotherhood party, Freedom and Justice, announced that they would not join the demonstration. They said they did not want to see the confrontation ratcheted up. Typically when the Muslim Brotherhood does not join a demonstration, the rally is smaller and less successful than it would have been otherwise.
In the wake of the killing of some 33 protesters around the country (some 24 of them in downtown Cairo) since Friday, crowds in Tahrir Square have started chanting “The people want the fall of the Air Marshall [al-Mushir],” i.e. they are calling for the outster of Air Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who is de facto Egypt’s interim president.
Protesters also called for the formation of a government of national unity by the New Year, and the election of a civilian president no later than April (the current plan, backed by the military, is for staggered parliamentary elections to be held for the lower and upper houses through March, after which a constituent assembly will draft a constitution. Next year this time, presidential elections would be held.
A credible new civilian government needs to be established as soon as possible.