Egyptian Protesters Reject Presidential Proposal
Military leader Hussein Tantawi promised Tuesday that presidential elections will take place in Egypt by the end of June 2012, but the offer has been rejected by the tens of thousands protesting in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Monday, but the protesters responded to Tantawi by chanting "ehral, ehral" meaning, "leave."
This will be the first vote since authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak lost power in an uprising 9 months ago. But the protesters want power to be transferred to civilian authority.
"We want the military council to step down and hand authority to a national salvation government with full authority," said Khaled El-Sayed, a protester from the Youth Revolution Coalition and one of the candidates in the parliamentary election. El-Sayed is also calling for the commander of the military police and the Interior Minister, who is in charge of the police, to be tried for "horrific crimes."
In the past four days, 29 people have died as a result of clashes and demonstrations occuring mainly in Cairo.
The now deadly clashes may be curtailing the transition to democracy that protesters are fighting for.
Tantawi sees the presidential election as a way to speed up the process, and also relinquish the political power of the armed forces.
"The armed forces, represented by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, has no desire to rule and puts the country's interests above all. It is ready to hand over responsibility immediately and return to its original duty of defending the country if the people want that and through a public referendum if it is necessary," said Tantawi in a televised address to the nation.
Tantawi did not acknowledge the four days of protest in Tahrir Square.
"The military council has failed to manage the transitional period, and the generals' hands are tainted by the blood of the nation's youth and have been collaborating with the counterrevolution," said a youth group protesting in the square.
"What does he exactly mean by a referendum? We have already held a referendum by being here in the square. Egypt is right here," said 50-year-old lawyer Hossam Mohsen, a protester in the square.
According to two politicians who attended a five-hour crisis meeting with the Tantawi earlier on Tuesday, Tantawi wants to hand over power to a civilian government by July 1.
But Tantawi did not mention this in his televised address.
According to the Interior Ministry, protesters have attempted to storm the ministry near Tahrir square, climbing over buildings and lobbing firebombs into the compound. The Ministry has also said that protesters set fire to cars outside the ministry and opened fire on policemen. The ministry has denied allegations that police countered with live ammunition on protesters