Four days of violent clashes between protesters and government officials in Tahrir Square have left at least 29 people dead and more than one thousand injured. At least 100,000 protesters fill the Square due to their lack of confidence in Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military council that took over following the fall of former President Mubarak. The protesters fear that the military will not willingly cede power to a democratically elected president.
On Tuesday, Field Marshal Tantawi announced that Presidential elections will be held sooner than previously planned and no later than July 2012. He further confirmed that the Parliamentary elections, scheduled to start this Monday, would proceed. In addition, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his Cabinet offered their resignation to SCAF on Monday; many citing the violent treatment of protesters as the impetus behind their resignations. Although there are differing reports, it seems Tantawi also reported that the resignations have been accepted, “but the current government will remain as a caretaker government until a new prime minister is named to form a new government.” Finally, Tantawi stated that the military is willing to hold a referendum on immediately transferring power to a civilian authority if that is what the Egyptian people demand.
From the outside, it may seem that these responses are appropriate and that the current government is attempting to address many of the protesters’ demands. However, protesters are still shouting that they will not leave Tahrir Square until Tantawi leaves power. According to a report from Amnesty International released earlier this month, the Supreme Council, “in the name of ensuring security and stability . . . [has] committed numerous human rights violations, ignoring the very demands for social justice and fundamental freedoms that triggered the uprising.” Sometimes the violence and brutality employed has exceeded that of applied by Mubarak’s own regime.
Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, stated that, “No one is going to accept another civilian government micromanaged” by the military commanders. Therefore, the questions remain as to what credible civilian leader is willing to step into the role of Prime Minister if, as Tantawi says, SCAF will remain in control until the new government is fully formed, and whether the upcoming Parliamentary elections will really have much of an affect on the current state of Egyptian affairs? Amr Hamzawy, a liberal parliamentary candidate, recently declared that if turnout is above 50% and the elections are genuinely free and fair, then the whole of Egypt can consider itself victorious. This may be true; but it may also turn out to be a disappointingly small victory.