REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- More than 18 political parties and groups have called for a million-man march in Tahrir Square on Friday, demanding that the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces announce a specific schedule for transferring power to a civilian government.
The protests will include demands to end emergency laws, amend the new elections law ahead of the upcoming parliamentary vote and provide social equality by improving working conditions of public employees. The demonstrations are being dubbed: "Reclaiming the Revolution."
While SCAF has set dates for parliamentary elections -- they will be carried out in three stages starting Nov. 28 and ending on Jan. 10 -- the ruling military council has not released details regarding presidential elections or when a new constitution will be passed.
The new elections law has been heavily criticized by most of Egypt’s political movements. The law holds that while two-thirds of the members of parliament will be chosen from political party lists, the rest of the seats will be filled by individually elected candidates. The latter category raises fears that former members of the ruling National Democratic Party, who have an edge because they are bankrolled by businessmen loyal to toppled President Hosni Mubarak, stand a good chance at slipping back into the legislature.
“We don’t understand why SCAF insists on the one-third individual-candidate system and we believe that the political isolation law should have been implemented against those ex-NDP members,” said Mohamed Beltagi, a member of the Justice and Freedom party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Prolonging the new parliament’s electoral process without a clear date on when presidential elections will be held has unsettled Egyptians. Things grew more curious earlier this week when Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of SCAF, appeared on the streets of Cairo in a civilian suit, shaking hands with passersby. Many Egyptians believed this was a sign that he was trying to ingratiate himself to the masses, suggesting the military council may not be ready to give up power.
SCAF member Mamdouh Shahin tried to calm down such concerns by saying that the council is willing to transfer power as soon as possible. But he wouldn't give a timeframe for when presidential elections would be held.
-- Amro Hassan
Photo: Egypt's military ruler, field marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, on Sept. 16. Credit: Amr Nabil / Associated Press