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Sporadic Clashes in Cairo as Protests Enter 4th day

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Douglas Mpuga

Egyptian protesters have clashed with police in the capital Cairo for a fourth straight day. The protesters are demanding an accelerated presidential election and early handover of power from the ruling military council to a civilian government.

Hundreds of riot police guarding Egypt's interior ministry reportedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot Sunday to keep stone-throwing demonstrators away from the building.  

Protests erupted after police allegedly failed to prevent a melee and stampede that killed 74 people after a football match in the city of Port Said last week.

“This is a result of a revolution which has not gone fully democratic,” said Dr. Walid Phares, an expert on the Middle East and author of "The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.

The military council is still holding on to power and the Muslim brotherhood got a majority in parliament, he said, adding “it seems there is an understanding between the military council and the Muslim brotherhood to contain civil society and democratic forces.”

Those who began the revolution (in January last year), he noted, “….seem to be going back to the streets to demand for a quick transfer of power to the executive, and to sound a warning against excesses coming from political forces that want to establish a different type of government from a liberal democracy.”

Phares said the military council may not be willing to hand over power yet and even if they did it would not make a big difference. “If the transfer is done without guarantees for democracy, freedom and secularism, it [power] is going to move from an authoritarian military council to a Muslim brotherhood form of authoritarianism.”

He noted that mere transfer of power without constitutional guarantees may not be very successful.

The results of the parliamentary election, said Phares, are a reflection of the balance of power that existed at the time of the revolution. “Civil society forces didn’t have political parties while the Muslim brotherhood had a strong political party.”

But the situation may change, he said, “my expectation is that there is [going to] be  another democratic revolution that will rectify the trajectory of what is happening now and bring Egypt back to liberal democracy.”

Officials say at least 12 people have been killed in the cities of Cairo and Suez and 2,500 others have been hurt since protests broke out Thursday.

Some Egyptians believe remnants of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's government were behind the Port Said violence and see it as part of a plot to create chaos to reassert influence.

In another development Sunday, saboteurs attacked a gas pipeline that crosses the Sinai Peninsula, the 12th such attack in the year since Mr. Mubarak resigned. The explosion halted exports to neighboring Israel and Jordan.

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