Thousands of Egyptians poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square amid increasing political tensions ahead of May presidential elections, the first since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
The Muslim Brotherhood, whose political party controls the largest bloc in parliament, called for rallies to “defend the revolution” in an April 18 statement in which it criticized a decision to disqualify its main nominee, Khairat el-Shater, from the presidential race. Other groups and parties including the April 6 movement called for separate protests under the slogan “No constitution under military rule.”
“Say it, don’t be afraid, SCAF must leave,” some of the protesters chanted, referring to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The barring of presidential candidates, confirmed by the election commission this week, has added to the turmoil surrounding Egypt’s transition. Islamists, secular politicians and the army council have clashed over the process of drawing up a new constitution and returning to civilian rule.
Ten prospective nominees were excluded from the contest due to begin on May 23. They include el-Shater, the more conservative Salafi cleric Hazem Abu Ismail and Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.
After his expulsion from the race, el-Shater told reporters on April 18 that developments indicated the generals had no real intention to fully relinquish power. The military council says it will hand over to civilians by the end of June.
The Brotherhood accuses the interim government installed by the military of failing to restore security or help the economy recover, and has criticized the generals for refusing to fire it. The Islamist group has fielded a backup candidate, Mohamed Morsi, who heads its Freedom and Justice Party, to contest the presidential race.
Politicians will meet with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the army council, on April 22 to discuss the composition of the committee charged with drafting a new constitution. An administrative court ruling this month effectively suspended the 100-member panel, amid accusations it was dominated by Islamists with other groups under-represented.