Egypt: democracy movement caught between military, Islamists

In response to the victory of Islamist parties in run-off elections, Egypt’s military rulers said Dec. 7 that the new parliament will not be representative enough to independently oversee the drafting of a constitution, and they will appoint a council to oversee the process. The constituent assembly will still be appointed by the parliament, but the military-appointed council will coordinate with the assembly to check the influence of extremists. “We are in the early stages of democracy,” said Gen. Mukhtar Mulla, a member of the ruling military council. “The parliament is not representing all sectors of society.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party won nearly two-thirds of the seats reserved for individual candidates in the opening round of the lower house elections. Freedom and Justice had already won the largest share of seats reserved for parties in last week’s vote, securing 37% in the nine provinces that participated in this round. Its nearest rival was the even more conservative Salafist Nour party, with 24%. A liberal coalition was a distant third. (AP, VOA, Dec. 7)

The protesters who have been staging an occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square meanwhile said their sit-in will be relocated to the nearby Cabinet building to emphasize their primary demand—the replacement of the newly-appointed cabinet of Kamel al-Ganzouri with a broad-based government of “national salvation” endowed with executive powers to oversee a democratic transition. The new military-appointed Prime Minister al-Ganzouri also served as prime minister under former president Hosni Mubarak for three years in the 1990s. Eleven organizations have signed on to the statement demanding the military-appointed cabinet’s replacement, including the April 6 Youth Movement’s Democratic Front, the Egyptian Current party, the Democratic Front Party, and the Revolutionary Youth Coalition. (Gulf News, Dec. 8; Ahram Online, Dec. 7)

See our last posts on Egypt and the Arab revolutions.

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  1. Contradictions escalate in Egypt
    One person was killed and more than 130 people were injured—including 32 military police officers—in a clash Dec. 17 with pro-democracy protesters in downtown Cairo. Protesters have used barbed wire to secure their sit-in at the Cabinet building. The violence comes as an Islamist victory is expected in the new round of phased voting for parliament Nov. 15. (LAT, BBC World Service, Dec. 17; Middle East Online, Dec. 15)

  2. Repression escalates in Egypt
    At least nine have been confirmed killed and more than 344 reported injured in the past two days of continuing street-fitghing in central Cairo. A building belonging to the Ministry of Transport that caught fire during the clashes continued to burn as military police launched a fierce attack on Tahrir Square. Tents in the iconic square’s central island and near the Mugamaa state complex were burnt down and demonstrators were severely beaten. (Ahram Online, Dec. 17)