CAIRO, June 17, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, June 17, 2012 (AFP)
Activists gathered at Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square warned Egypt’s ruling military on Sunday they stand ready to reignite the revolution if the army clings to power.
“We’re still here to carry the torch” of the revolution, warned Marwan Adel at the square which in February 2011 became the cradle of the uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.
On Sunday, Egyptians were voting on the last day of a highly divisive presidential run-off, but fears remained high that the military was consolidating its power after having dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament.
“The army will always have Tahrir to face up to,” said Adel, a teacher, who like several other activists regularly returns to the square.
“We’re ready to restart the revolt,” Adel warned the army which has been ruling Egypt since Mubarak was ousted after more than three decades in office, in a high point of last year’s Arab Spring.
Activists have kept up some tents at the square to mark their symbolic presence at the site. Adel admitted to have “boycotted” the presidential election between two candidates who are poles apart ideologically and represent ideals far removed from those of the young revolutionaries of 2011.
Former air force chief Ahmed Shafiq, who served as Mubarak’s prime minister in the final days of the uprising, was vying for the top job against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi.
The presidential election came against a backdrop of legal and political chaos, with the Muslim Brotherhood set on a collision path with the military after it ordered parliament dissolved.
The move throws Egypt’s already tumultuous transition after Mubarak’s ouster into further disarray with the new president expected to take office without a parliament and without a constitution.
The ruling Supreme Council for Armed Forces is to maintain control over legislation and the budget in the absence of a parliament, military sources told AFP on Sunday.
The dissolution of parliament has triggered fears that the generals want to cling to power at any cost.
Another activist Magdy, 35, reminded the army of Khaled Said, a young Egyptian who was arrested in an Internet cafe in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and beaten to death by police in late 2010.
His killing caused nationwide outrage and made him a symbol of police repression and of the anti-Mubarak uprising.
“As long as the flame, Khaled Said, is alive, neither the army nor Shafiq can bury the revolution,” said Magdy.
“The military has protected the country and its revolution. It’s a shame that today it insists on confiscating it. We will not let that happen,” he said, referring to the army’s perceived neutral role during the revolt.
The head of the military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, has become the favourite target of pro-democracy activists. They accuse him of trying to retain the old regime despite the fall of Mubarak.
“My message to Tantawi is: ‘You can use every trick in the book to maintain power, but beware, the youth of the revolution are still here and ready tonight to take over,” said Adel.
For him, the fact that the intelligence services and military police have once again been authorised to arrest civilians is a sign that the army expects more unrest and has the means to tackle it.
Egypt’s justice ministry has granted the army the right to arrest civilians, in a move seen as proof of the military’s plans to cement itself in power.
But beyond the political turbulence that has rocked the country of 82 million people, street vendors selling cigarettes, flags and mementos at Tahrir Square are worried for their business.
“I hope the atmosphere continues to stay calm, with no violence as we need to work to feed our families,” said Abdelal, a flag vendor.