News / Middle East

Activists Say Egypt's Rulers Promise Constitutional Referendum in 2 Months

Military police and soldiers walk among traffic as they clear remaining protesters in Tahir square in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's military rulers dissolved parliament Sunday, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pr
Military police and soldiers walk among traffic as they clear remaining protesters in Tahir square in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's military rulers dissolved parliament Sunday, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pr

Egyptian pro-democracy activist Wael Ghonim says the country's new military rulers have promised him that a referendum will be held on a revised constitution in two months.

Ghonim and blogger Amr Salama posted a note on their website saying they secured the commitment in talks with the military council that took control of Egypt from President Hosni Mubarak when he resigned last Friday.  They described Sunday's meeting as encouraging.

Ghonim, a Google executive, and other cyber activists played a key role in organizing 18 days of nationwide anti-government protests that forced Mr. Mubarak to step down and hand power to the military after 30 years in power.

The activists say the military council told them that a newly-appointed committee will finish drafting constitutional amendments in 10 days and seek public approval for the new charter in a national referendum in two months.  Egypt's military rulers have not confirmed the timelines.

The military council suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament Sunday, meeting two key demands of pro-democracy protesters who viewed the charter and legislature as tools of Mr. Mubarak's authoritarian rule.

In a statement Sunday, Egypt's military rulers said they will govern for six months or until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held.  The votes are scheduled for September.

The 9-part communique also said Egyptian Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi will act as effective head of state, representing the country in the transitional period before the elections. Egyptian opposition figure Ayman Nour welcomed the statement, calling it a victory for the revolution that ousted Mr. Mubarak.

In other developments, Egypt's Central Bank says financial institutions will be closed across the country on Monday and Tuesday because of strikes and a religious holiday. Striking bank workers forced authorities to make Monday an unscheduled bank holiday, running into a public observance already set for Tuesday.

Protests, sit-ins and strikes have spread in recent days at a number of Egyptian state-owned institutions, including the stock exchange, textile and steel companies, media organizations, the postal service and railways. Workers have an array of grievances.

An Egyptian military source told the Reuters news agency that the military council plans to ban meetings by labor unions and warn that it will act against "chaos and disorder."  The source said the orders are intended to stifle further disruption and get the country back to work.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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