Thousands of Egyptians rally in Tahrir against ruling junta
Thousands of people gathered in central Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday in a mass protest to demand an end to military rule, amid concerns that the junta is trying to prolong its stay in power, dpa reported.
The concern came after recent statements by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that the new constitution should be finished before the presidential election, scheduled for next month.
The military suspended the constitution after it took power following the ouster of Hosny Mubarak last year and said that an elected panel should have up to six months to draft a new constitution.
Earlier this month, a Cairo court suspended the Islamist-dominated commission tasked with drafting the constitution, after the withdrawal of liberal, moderate Muslim and Coptic church representatives. That has thrown into question whether a constitution can be finished before the scheduled vote and if the vote may happen without a constitution.
But the protests - broadly against the junta - were by no means limited to the one issue.
Some other liberal groups called for the rally to also protest against presidential candidates who were part of the Mubarak regime.
Islamists also joined demonstrators in Tahrir after months of disputes with other liberal and youth groups. Those groups have criticized Islamists for abandoning street rallies after winning two-third of parliamentary seats in elections earlier this year.
The Muslim Brotherhood were also accused of siding with the government during deadly military and security crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters over the past six months.
"The (Brotherhood's) Freedom and Justice Party should apologize for their previous stances and return to Tahrir Square's national groups," activist George Ishaq said.
Radical Salafists also joined the protest to rally against a decision by the election committee to disqualify their candidate, Hazem Abu Ismail, from the race. The committee said it had proof his mother acquired a US passport.
Friday's protest comes after hundreds briefly blocked a main Cairo bridge over the Nile river Thursday, as they called for an end to military rule. The military has run the government since Mubarak stepped down, promising to hand over power to an elected government when the time is right. However, scepticism is growing about their commitment to that timeline.
The presidential election is scheduled for May 23-24.