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Egyptian Demonstrators Call for Political Reform


For the second time this week, demonstrators gathered in downtown Cairo demanding an end to the 24-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak. Such demonstrations had almost been unheard of in Egypt until last month, after President Mubarak called on parliament to amend the law to allow for more than one presidential candidate.

Huge crowds of Egyptians staged a protest in downtown Cairo Wednesday afternoon, to demand, among other things, that President Hosni Mubarak not seek a sixth term.

In language almost never before publicly heard in Egypt, demonstrators demanded that President Mubarak listen to what the people want. They demanded that he lift emergency laws that were instituted in 1981, including a ban against public protests. The demonstrators also accused the president of illegally imprisoning thousands of Egyptians.

Thousands of security forces, wearing protective riot gear, took up positions around the Egyptian parliament, as well as the British and U.S. embassies.

Last month, President Mubarak, who has been in office for 24 years, asked lawmakers to amend the constitution to allow for more than one candidate to seek the presidency.

The demonstration was staged by the pro-reform movement Kefaya, which means enough. Its members comprise a coalition of broad political influences including leftists, Islamists and liberals.

The group has said it would call for an end to laws which it says stifle free speech and hamper the efforts of political parties to organize. The group also wants a constitutional assembly to be formed to draft a new constitution before presidential and parliamentary elections are held later this year.

On Sunday, security forces dispersed a large demonstration in Cairo that was staged by the Muslim Brotherhood. For decades, the group has officially been banned from forming political parties, although it does have representation in the Egyptian parliament.