CAIRO, May 4, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, May 4, 2012 (AFP)
Thousands of anti-military protesters took to the streets in Cairo and Alexandria on Friday, days after bloody clashes near the defense ministry raised tensions ahead of landmark presidential elections.
In the capital, several thousand gathered in Tahrir Square and hundreds were in the Abassiya neighborhood near the defense ministry, despite stern warnings from the army.
Others carrying posters of demonstrators who died during last year’s uprising against president Hosni Mubarak made their way to Abbassiya, where army troops were stationed along barbed wire fences.
Friday’s protest comes just three weeks before the country’s first post-revolt presidential election, after which the ruling military is to hand power to civilian rule. But protesters say they fear the elections will be rigged in favor of a pro-military candidate. Others say they do not trust the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to fully hand power to civilian rule.
“We are here to end SCAF rule. We don’t trust them. SCAF is following Mubarak’s example, and we want to protect the revolution,” said Mohammed Badawi, a member of the Coalition of Revolution Youth, who came from the canal city of Ismailiya. Another protester from the Nile Delta city of Mansura, Ahmed Gamal, said he feared the upcoming elections will be “forged.”
“After the revolution, there should be an election committee with integrity. Instead they brought a corrupt one,” the 22-year-old told AFP. The protest comes two days after deadly clashes in the Abbassiya neighborhood which left at least nine people dead according to the health ministry, though field medics say more died.
On Wednesday, unknown attackers stormed a sit-in near the defense ministry by supporters of Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail, who was recently disqualified from the presidential race. In Abbassiya, protester Mohammed Eid unbuttons his shirt to reveal a pro-Abu Ismail T-shirt.
“I’m not showing the T-shirt because it’s not about Abu Ismail anymore,” Eid told AFP. “Now it’s become about ending military rule and protecting the revolution that is not finished,” he said. Around 2,000 protesters gathered in central Alexandria, according to AFP photographer.
On Thursday, SCAF, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, vowed that this month’s presidential election will be fair and moved to assure the public it will hand over power on schedule but it also warned against any threat to the defense ministry.
“We are committed to fair elections 100 percent. We don’t have any candidates. All the candidates are respectable Egyptians,” said council member Major General Mohammed al-Assar.”
The responsibility, the duty, the law and the right to self-defense, as well as the honor of the military obligates members of the armed forces to defend the defense ministry and its military installations because they are a symbol of military honour and the prestige of the nation,” said General Mokhtar al-Mulla, another council member. “If anyone approaches its (installations), they should hold themselves responsible,” he warned.
Protests have been held regularly on Fridays as the fast-paced developments of the pre-election phase take twists and turns prompting protest and debate. The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24 and a run off for June 16 and 17 if there is no outright winner in the first round. The military vowed it would hand over power to civilian rule before the end of June, or by May if there is a clear winner in the first round of presidential elections.