22 Nov 2011

Egyptian army agrees to form civilian government

Egypt’s ruling military council has agreed to form a civilian transitional government and pledged to hold presidential elections before July next year.

The military council, in power since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown on 11 February, hopes that the move will meet the demands by tens of thousands of protesters amassed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in other cities for a faster transfer of power; under the previous army timetable, the vote may not have happened until late 2012 or early 2013.

However, it remains to be seen whether the move would see an end to the violent demonstrations in Tahrir square, which have reportedly resulted in the deaths of 36 and a further 1,250 wounded, because elections were due to begin next Monday (28 November).

Under the new plans, the country’s next president is expected to be elected in June ahead of a power transfer in July.

The news comes after Egypt’s Prime Minister Issam Sharaf offered the resignation of his government to the ruling military and pleaded for an end to five days of bloody violence between the protesters and police in the capital’s main square, a symbol of the Arab Spring.

Dicontent at the military council exploded after a cabinet proposal to set out constitutional principles that would permanently shield the army from civilian oversight.

We are willing to do anything for the sake of this country, and you must be willing to as well because who will benefit from these events?Former Egyptian Prime Minister, Issam Sharaf

“The ministry responded to the people’s demands, and submitted its resignation, said Mr Sharaf.

“Today, I ask everyone to take this country into account, to leave, calm the situation down because we are willing to do anything for the sake of this country, and you must be willing to as well because who will benefit from these events?

Read more: Egypt protesters gather for 'day of rage'

“All I ask of people is that they leave, calm down, we have already responded to what they wanted and it will be implemented, God willing. We were so close to our main goal which is the elections; this is what is important, this political shift. So again I ask that people protect Egypt in this stage.”

Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood said it feared further violence if next week’s parliamentary elections were postponed.

Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, Secretary General of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, said: “I believe that the Egyptian people who started the revolution on January 25th and gained this electoral process can do it. I don’t think that the military or the police have the means to secure the elections in nine governates, especially not the military.

“They can call on citizen committees to be available, not a substitute to the security services. What is the alternative? Delaying the elections? That would take us towards chaos.”

Meanwhile, the violence in Tahrir Square was denounced by the White House.

“We are deeply concerned about the violence. The violence is deplorable. We call on all sides to exercise restraint,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.