Egypt will hold its first parliamentary elections in over 50 years on Monday, November 28, in a three-stage election process that will continue on January 3, with the final results to be announced on January 13. But fears of violence at the polls and confusion about the complicated election procedure — and the deaths this past week of 41 people and more than 2,000 wounded in renewed unrest in Cairo — have cast a pall over the elections. Thousands of protesters have been occupying Tahrir Square for the ninth straight day and vowed not to leave until Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads the governing Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), steps down.
Protesters are calling for the creation of a civilian presidential council and a “national salvation” government to be in place until a president is elected. While there had been hopes for a massive “Legtimacy of the Revolution” rally, the number of protesters in Tahrir hasave fallen on Sunday on the eve of the elections, with rain falling. While hopes are high to see Egypt evolve from a repressive government to a true democracy,”ongoing injustices” including human rights abuses that were all too apparent last week and the fact that many “remnants” of Mubarak’s regime including Tantawi himself (he was Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years) remain, mean that the elections are just another step in a continuing fight.
On Sunday, Tantawi rejected any calls to step down and urged Egyptians to turn out for the elections, with warnings of “grave consequences” if the country does not pull through the current crisis. In what Al Jazeera‘s Sherine Tadros called an “eleventh hour concession,” Tantawi proposed the creation of a 50-member advisory council to advise the SCAF. Tantaw has been claiming that “foreign hands” are behind the massive demonstrations.
Referring to the protesters, Tantawi said that “We will not allow a small minority of people who don’t understand to harm Egypt’s stability.” His words echo those of Mubarak in his final days. Since the military took control following Mubarak’s ouster, it has been increasingly criticized for its links to Mubarak’s rule. The SCAF has failed to revive Egypt’s faltering economy and respond to the far-reaching reforms demanded by youth activists, nor has it restored security.
Liberal politicians have found themselves caught between the protesters and the military regime.
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