Tens of thousands of Egyptians on Apr 20 demanded that their military rulers stick to a pledge to hand over power by mid-year after a row over who can run in the presidential election raised doubts about the army’s commitment to democracy. Two leading Islamist candidates, one representing the Muslim Brotherhood who was seen as the frontrunner, were among those disqualified this week from a vote that starts on May 23-24, drawing a storm of criticism from supporters and the candidates. Khairat Al-Shater, the Brotherhood’s former candidate, said his ejection showed the generals who have ruled since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year had no serious intention of quitting. In his place, the Brotherhood will field Mohamed Mursi, head of its political party who had filed the official paperwork to run just in case Shater was disqualified.
“We are all here to protect the revolution and complete its demands,” said Sayed Gad, 38, a pharmacist and Brotherhood member. He had joined a protest which attracted both Islamists and liberals to a packed Tahrir Square in central Cairo. “No to remnants. No to military rule,” read one banner that carried pictures of Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander, and of Moussa, a former foreign minister. From a stage in Tahrir Square where his supporters had also gathered yesterday, people chanted over loudspeakers: “Islamic revolution! With our soul and blood, we sacrifice for Islam!” and “The Qur’ān is the constitution!”
“Down with military rule” and “The people want the execution of the marshal,” some protesters chanted, a reference to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades who now leads the ruling military council. Some demonstrators sheltered under awnings and umbrellas to shade them from the midday sun. Many waved Egyptian flags. Thousands also gathered in the second city Alexandria and turned out in some other cities.