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Egyptian Military, Under Pressure, Advances Election Timetable

  • Peter Clottey

A protester runs from tear gas during clashes with security forces near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, February 5, 2012.

A protester runs from tear gas during clashes with security forces near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, February 5, 2012.

An Egyptian scholar says calls by Egypt’s military administration for a presidential election are a calculated attempt to dilute a groundswell of pro-democracy demands to hand over power to a civilian government.

The military announced that nominations for presidential candidates will be accepted beginning March 10, a month earlier than planned.

Monday's protests in Cairo

Said Sadek, professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo, said the military administration seems to have failed to accelerate the transitional process following protests that forced long-time leader Hosni Mubarak to step down.

“Of course, they would never have made this concession unless there was popular pressure,” said Sadek. “This just shows how the culture of fear has been defeated. There are lots of demonstrations targeting the [head of the ruling military council] Field Marshal [Mohamed Hussein Tantawi] himself, and they want the entire military council to be subjected to investigation for mishandling the transitional period.”

Tantawi called for a quick completion of nomination procedures in a Monday meeting with the head of a judicial election supervisory committee.

Observers, however, said the ongoing protests pressured military rulers to move up preparations for a presidential vote aimed at reinstating civilian rule.

The move, analysts say, seems to be an apparent concession to opposition activists engaged in street battles with police outside the Interior Ministry. Protesters also held a sit-in demonstration Monday at the parliament building demanding presidential elections are held in the coming weeks, rather than in June.

Sadek says the protesters are still suspicious of the military administration, despite the announcement to expedite the presidential vote.

“The street protests are much mobilized against the military and the Ministry of Interior and we have had one of the worse riots that even a parliamentary committee is claiming might have been a conspiracy,” said Sadek. “In the last protests in Tahrir, we have noticed a systematic attempt by thugs to harass women deliberately, to demonize and to discredit Tahrir Square and make it difficult for people to go there.”

The military pledged to hold a presidential election in June, but speeding up the nomination process could allow for an earlier vote in April or May. The presidential election would be Egypt's first since last year's popular uprising ousted Mubarak.

Some Egyptians have expressed concern there would not be enough time to approve and implement a new constitution before the presidential vote. But, Sadek said the country’s leaders can expedite the process to ensure the constitution is in place before the vote.