Egypt: Thousands Protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square

April 20, 2012  

Egypt’s Islamist and secular forces packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square with tens of thousands of protesters on Friday, The Associated Press reported.

It was the biggest rally in months in which protesters accused the country’s ruling generals of manipulating upcoming presidential elections to preserve their power.

The report noted that the attempts by protest organizers to form a united front against the military were blocked by competing agendas.

The liberals and leftists accused the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood of abandoning the “revolution” months ago and allying with the military in hopes of securing power. In Friday’s rally, noted AP, many said the Brotherhood was only turning to the streets after the generals proved more powerful in decision-making even after an Islamist-dominated parliament was elected.

The Brotherhood, meanwhile, said it was protesting to preserve the revolution.

The protest comes after earlier this week, the country’s election commission disqualified 10 candidates, including the top three contenders.

The disqualified candidates include ultraconservative Islamist Hazem Abu Ismail, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater. The panel had announced their disqualification along with ten other candidates over the weekend. All three appealed the decision on Monday, but to no avail.

During Friday’s demonstration, according to AP, the protesters chanted “Down with military rule,” and demanded that candidates seen as “remnants” from Mubarak’s regime be barred from the race. Tens of thousands more demonstrated in other cities around the country.

According to the report, liberals and youth activists who led last year’s anti-Mubarak uprising urged the Brotherhood and other Islamists to agree with them on a single candidate for president who would pursue a “revolutionary” agenda of reform and confront the military.

The Brotherhood, however, refused to step aside in favor of a consensus figure. Though its initial candidate Khairat el-Shater was disqualified, the Brotherhood has a back-up nominee in the race, party leader Mohammed Morsi.

The majority in Tahrir appeared to be Islamists, though the leftist and liberal camps made their strongest showing in months, noted AP.

Enjy Hamadi, with the leftist April 6 youth movement, said the Brotherhood should drop Morsi, agree on a consensus candidate and to a more inclusive assembly to write the constitution. “The Brotherhood needs to return to the revolution with actions, not words,” she told AP.

Essam el-Erian, deputy head of the Brotherhood’s political party, called it “not logical” for Morsi to step aside and denied the group would agree to a constitutional panel that does not include members of the Islamist-dominated parliament.

“We thought that the revolution was on the right path, then we were surprised by attempts to bring back the former regime to power,” el-Erian told AP. “This is what forced us to put forth a [presidential] candidate with legitimacy from the street, this is our goal.”

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