Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Egyptian army soldiers and protesters demanding that the ruling generals hand over power clashed in central Cairo for a third day after the death toll from the violence rose to 10.
Troops lined up behind barbed wire and demonstrators hurled rocks at each other on a street near Tahrir Square, the focus of a revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. About 500 were injured in the fighting, which began Dec. 16, Health Minister Fouad el-Nawawy said today. Videos posted online and broadcast on private television stations showed troops dragging and beating demonstrators. Many of those killed in the violence were shot, the Associated Press said.
The violence is the latest confrontation between protesters and the military, which took interim power after a popular uprising that ousted Mubarak in February. The demonstrators are demanding that soldiers give power immediately to civilians, that army-appointed Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri resign and that the trials of former regime officials for the killing of protesters be expedited.
“The protester standing in front of me got hit by a rock on the head,” said Ahmed Safy Eldin, a 27-year-old engineer and protestor on Sheikh Rihan street. “I saw shards of glass and molotov cocktails being thrown at us from the roofs of the nearby government buildings.”
The fighting follows two rounds of parliamentary elections, which have been dominated by religious groups. The emergence of an Islamist-dominated parliament may give the generals new arguments for resisting pressure to hand over power. After the initial ballot, a member of the ruling military council said the assembly may not be representative enough to be entrusted with drafting a new constitution. The army says it will stay at the helm until a president is elected next year.
The Freedom and Justice Party, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, won more than 39 percent of votes for party lists in the second round of the poll, the state-run Al Ahram newspaper reported. The Salafist Nour Party secured 31 percent, the Cairo-based newspaper said, citing preliminary results. The turnout for the first phase of the second round -- runoffs are due on Dec. 21 -- was 67 percent, the head of the electoral commission, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, said today on state television.
Due to the complex nature of the electoral system, which requires voters to cast ballots for both party lists and individual candidates, the makeup of the assembly won’t be clear until final results are announced in mid-January. Voting for the third and final round begins on Jan. 3.
‘Plot Against Egypt’
El-Ganzouri said at a press conference yesterday that troops didn’t shoot at protesters and that the deaths by live rounds were caused by attackers, AP reported. The military council said on its Facebook page that groups gathered near the government buildings were implementing “a plot against Egypt.”
Dozens of demonstrators had been camping outside the Cabinet building for three weeks before the military began to break up their sit-in. In Tahrir Square today, smoke billowed out of the remains of burnt tents, which were shown in the footage being demolished by soldiers.
The government will meet today to discuss austerity measures to reduce record borrowing costs, the state-run Middle East News Agency said Dec. 16. The budget deficit may reach 10 percent of gross domestic product in the fiscal year through June, 1.4 percentage points higher than the previous forecast, Planning Minister Fayza Aboulnaga told reporters last week.
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