Egypt’s military had been seen as the linchpin of the political
transition after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
It was the institution Islamists hoped would steer the country to
early elections that they were poised to dominate. Liberals regarded
it as a hedge against Islamist power. And the Obama administration
considered it a partner that it hoped would help secure American
But the cabinet’s offer to resign, in a bow to the protesters’
demands, was the latest blow to the tenuous legitimacy of the ruling
military council, just a week before Egypt is scheduled to hold its
first parliamentary elections since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster nine months
Reeling from the swift collapse of the military’s authority, the
Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist group, urged protesters
to show restraint or risk delaying the elections. But other Islamists,
some more conservative and others more moderate, joined secular
parties in calling for a protest Tuesday — expected to be the largest
yet — demanding that the military hand power to a civilian authority.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces did not respond to the
cabinet’s offer to resign, but state television reported that the
council was seeking a new prime minister. The culture minister, Emad
Abu Ghazi, has already resigned in protest over the demonstrators’
brutal treatment at the hands of security forces.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, called the
violence “deplorable” and urged that elections take place on schedule.
The escalating uncertainty came after a bloody third day of battles
between the protesters who have reoccupied Tahrir Square at the center
of the capital and the security forces massed around the headquarters
of the Interior Ministry. The Health Ministry said at least 23 people
had died, and several doctors treating patients at a field clinic and
nearby hospital said several had been killed by live ammunition,
contrary to denials by the Interior Ministry. More than 1,500 people
have been seriously injured in the clashes, the Health Ministry said.
But the crowd in Tahrir Square — the heart of the Arab Spring —
continued to grow to tens of thousands on Monday. Alarmed at the
crackdown on unarmed civilians, a broad cross section of the political
elite, from liberal groups to ultraconservative Islamists, pledged for
the first time to join the demonstrators on Tuesday in a so-called
million man march.
After a meeting on Monday of about two dozen political groups, several
delivered a collective apology to the protesters for not joining them
sooner and “for not providing them with a political cover for the past
72 hours,” as the liberal political leader Amr Hamzawy put it in a
message on Twitter.
But though all the political leaders called for elections to begin on
schedule next week, a growing number acknowledged privately that the
violence was likely to force their delay — potentially adding to the
unrest. And even as the political leaders unified around the demands,
new divisions emerged among them over how the military might begin to
hand over power.
The Muslim Brotherhood was the only major political group that
announced it would hold back from Tuesday’s demonstrations. It said in
a statement that it did not want to be involved in a protest that
might delay the elections and thus the transition to democracy.
In a statement on the Web site of the group’s Freedom and Justice
Party, one of its leaders, Mohamed Beltagy, told protesters that “in
spite of my complete appreciation of the reasons for their rage,” they
should “not be involved in an escalation that could lead to a case of
chaos and damage” or “give a chance to those who seek to justify
delaying a complete transition of power to an elected civilian power
with full authority (parliament, government and president) so that we
can continue on the path of our glorious revolution.”
Others argued that the group did not want to jeopardize its commanding
lead in outreach and organizing, and at one point Monday angry
protesters chased Mr. Beltagy out of the square.NYT