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February 12, 2011

Egypt's Military Dissolves Parliament, Suspends Constitution

by Lauren Frayer

Egypt’s military says it has dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution.   During the first full day of business since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, soldiers scuffled with hold-out protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and police also demonstrated over their wages.

The military’s communiqué was read out in a news flash on state television that parliament is dissolved and the constitution suspended.  Egypt’s military leaders also said they would rule for six months until elections can be held, they are scheduled for September.  It has asked current government ministers to stay on until then, in a caretaker capacity.

Those moves meet some key demands of Egypt’s pro-democracy protesters, who forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office in 18 days of mostly peaceful protests.  He handed control to the military on Friday.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq says security is the Cabinet’s main focus now.He says Egypt's normal way of life must be restored, along a feeling of security that was lost in recent weeks. He says insecurity is ending, though not at the pace it should.

Prime Minister Shafiq confirmed that Informaton Minister Anas el-Fiqqi has resigned, and the Cabinet is evaluating proposals for filling vacancies quickly.  Egypt’s public prosecutor has opened an investigation into top ruling party figures, freezing some politicians’ assets and imposing a travel ban on others.

But Mr. Shafiq said government ministries are running normally.

Soldiers dismantled tents and scuffled with some hold-out protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where the city’s infamous traffic jams are once again a fixture.

Former protester Khalid Shahwan said he is willing to be patient and see what the military and caretaker government can do.

"It is going to take time for them to change the constitution, for them to make good elections, proper elections."

But his friend Gihan Mohamed says the very culture of Egypt’s ruling elite has to change.

"I hope things are going to change because there is a lot of corruption in the country, like lots of corruption, and I hope it will change."

Meanwhile, Egypt’s police, who largely vanished during the popular uprising, reappeared Sunday holding their own demonstration in front of the Interior Ministry, which handles their pay.  At one point warning shots were fired into the air over a crowd of about 2,000.

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