Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Egypt rallies for democracy in wake of Mubarak’s resignation

Madisonians rally at the corner of State Street and Johnson Street to celebrate the announcement that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would step down. The Arabic script reads \”Congratulations.\”[/media-credit]

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s military rulers took sweeping action to dismantle the autocratic legacy of former President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday, dissolving parliament, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pro-democracy protesters. 

They also met with representatives of the broad-based youth movement that brought down the government after an 18-day uprising that transfixed the world. 

The caretaker government, backed by the military, said restoring security was a top priority even as labor unrest reflected one of the many challenges of steering the Arab world’s biggest nation toward stability and democracy.
The military defended the caretaker government, stocked with Mubarak loyalists, as necessary for now in the interests of stability but pledged to soon change it, said Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who became a central opposition figure, and another protester, Amr Salama, in a statement. 


“They said they will go after corrupt people no matter what their position current or previous,” the statement added. Amendments to the much reviled constitution will be prepared by an independent committee over the next 10 days and then presented for approval in a popular referendum to be held in two months, they said. 

The military also encouraged the youth to consider forming political parties – something very difficult to do under the old system – and pledged to meet with them regularly. 

“We felt a sincere desire to protect the gains of the revolution and an unprecedented respect for the right of young Egyptians to express their opinions,” Ghonim said. 

Even amid the efforts to build a new system, Egypt’s upheaval has splintered into a host of smaller grievances, the inevitable outcome of emboldened citizens feeling free to speak up, most for the first time. 

Egypt’s state news agency announced banks would be closed Monday due to strikes and again Tuesday for a public holiday. Dozens of employees protested against alleged corruption at the state television building, which broadcast pro-Mubarak messages during the massive demonstrations against his rule. 

The crowds in the protest encampment that became a symbol of defiance against the government thinned out Sunday – the first working day since the regime fell. Traffic flowed through downtown area for the first time in weeks. Troops cleared most of the makeshift tents and scuffled with holdout activists. 

The protesters have been pressing the ruling military council, led by Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, to immediately move forward with the transition by appointing a presidential council, dissolving parliament and releasing political prisoners. Thousands have remained in Tahrir Square and some want to keep up the pressure for immediate steps, including repeal of repressive emergency laws that give police broad power. 

The 18-member Supreme Council of the Armed Forces allayed some concerns by dismissing the legislature, packed with Mubarak loyalists, and sidelining the constitution, used by Mubarak to buttress his rule. Activists said they would closely watch the military to ensure it does not abuse its unchecked power – something that is clearly starting to make some uneasy. 

The council said it will represent Egypt in all internal and external affairs and proclaimed the right to set temporary laws. It was expected to clarify the scope of its legal authority as the complex transition unfolds and the role of the judiciary remains unclear. 

Protesters are demanding that the constitution be amended to impose term limits on the president, open up competition for the presidency, and remove restrictions on creating political parties. Others want an entirely new constitution. 

Hossam Bahgat, director of the non-governmental Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the steps were positive but warned that Egypt was on uncharted legal ground. 

Both the lower and upper houses of parliament are being dissolved. The last parliamentary elections in November and December were marked by allegations of fraud by the ruling party, which was accused of virtually shutting out the opposition. 

The caretaker Cabinet, appointed by Mubarak shortly after the pro-democracy protests began on Jan. 25, will remain in place until a new Cabinet is formed – a step expected to happen after elections. 

“Our concern now … is security, to bring security back to the Egyptian citizen,” Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Sunday after the Cabinet met for the first time since Mubarak was ousted. 

Security remains thin in Cairo, more than two weeks after police withdrew following clashes with protesters. Some have returned, but many say they might quit, citing humiliation and ill-treatment from people in the street. Others are on leave. Military police are directing traffic and filling in some of the gaps. 

Shafiq said the military would decide whether Omar Suleiman, who was appointed vice president by Mubarak in a failed attempt to appease protesters, would play some role in Egypt’s transition. 

He also denied reports that Mubarak had fled to Germany or the United Arab Emirates, saying the former president remained in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he went soon after stepping down. 

There were also protests by workers at a ceramic factory, a textile factory and a port on the Mediterranean coast as Egyptians sought to improve their lot in a country where poverty and other challenges will take years to address. 

Meanwhile, in Tahrir Square, soldiers tried to convince the few remaining protesters to clear their tents and blankets.

Some protesters were unsatisfied, and gathered with a wooden cross and a copy of the Quran. 

“The government is still in place. The corruption is still here. Emergency laws are still here,” said Mohammed Ahmed, an accountant. “When it is a civil state and we have a parliamentary system and political detainees are released, then we go.” 

In Madison, University of Wisconsin students gathered Saturday in celebration of Mubarak’s resignation and to express continuing support for the challenges Egyptians will face as the transition to democracy begins. 

UW junior Katrina Gray said the resignation is just a first step in moving toward a true democracy for Egypt.
Gray also said she maintains close contact with several Egyptian protesters, who have expressed their appreciation of the support from abroad. 

“They want their voices to be heard and to have representation for all Egyptians,” she said. “It’s important to them their message gets out the right way.”

– The Badger Herald’s Katherine Krueger contributed to this report from Madison.

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