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Egypt Postpones Elections, Purges Police Following Protests

Egypt postponed parliamentary elections and ended the service of hundreds of police officers in an attempt to appease protesters who have camped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for almost a week.

The elections, originally due in September, will be held the following month or in November, Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency reported today, citing an unidentified military official. “Polling procedures” will start before the end of September and voting will take place within 60 days, MENA said.

The Interior Ministry also announced it was “ending the service” of 669 senior police officers, including 505 generals, 82 brigadier generals and 82 colonels. Some of the officers have been referred to trial, the ministry said in a statement distributed to reporters, without giving further details.

Protesters, some of whom have occupied Tahrir Square since July 8, demanded the removal of police officers accused of abuses under former President Hosni Mubarak and during the revolt that ousted him, in which at least 800 people died. Other demands include speeding up efforts to prosecute officials and officers accused of corruption or the killing of demonstrators.

Many activists had also called for postponing the first legislative vote since Mubarak’s ouster, saying holding elections so soon would benefit established forces such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of the young protesters who were the main driver of the revolt.

Premier’s Pledges

The rallies in Cairo and other cities continued even after Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced July 11 that he would change members of his Cabinet within a week and that he had ordered the removal of senior police officers accused of crimes. Many protesters said his pledges fell short of their demands.

Egyptian shares rallied the most in seven weeks before today’s announcements, which came after the market closed.

The benchmark EGX30 Index gained 2.4 percent, the most since May 29, to 5,092.18 at the 2:30 p.m. close in Cairo. The gauge is the third-best performer among 91 indexes tracked by Bloomberg. Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, North Africa’s biggest mobile-phone company by subscribers, rose the most since May 22. Orascom Construction Industries advanced 2 percent.

‘Cleansing the Police’

“We have always called for cleansing the police forces,” Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said by telephone in Cairo. “What happened is a response not just to our demands but to those of the Egyptian people. We hope that elections can be held as soon as possible so that the military council can turn power over to an elected, civilian authority.”

Abdel Rahman Fares, an activist who has been camped out in Tahrir since July 8, said the changes aren’t enough to end the sit-in. “These are good steps but you cannot throw us a bone and expect us to leave,” he said in a telephone interview. “The sit-in will continue” until all demands are met, including an end to military trials of civilians, he said.

State employees returned today to their work at the main government building in Tahrir Square, a site that had been closed by some protesters, MENA reported.

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