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Egypt “Victory March” to test military rulers

Egypt “Victory March” to test military rulers
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First Published: Fri, Feb 18 2011. 01 29 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Feb 18 2011. 01 29 PM IST
Cairo:Egyptian pro-democracy leaders plan a nationwide “Victory March” on Friday to celebrate the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule one week ago and to remind the military of the power of the street.
The scale of the march, which will also act as a memorial to the 365 people who died in the 18-day uprising that shook the Middle East, will be a gauge of Egyptian people power as well as of the nation’s feeling about the transition to civilian rule.
With the military facing demands to free political prisoners and to lift emergency rules after dissolving parliament and suspending the constitution, all eyes will also be on how the higher military council polices the event. “We have agreed with the army to set up the stage for the celebrations today,” said Ahmed Naguib, a member of the coordinating committee for a coalition of youth and political pro-democracy groupings.
“Sheikh Qaradawi will lead Friday prayers and give the sermon in Tahrir Square,” said Naguib, referring to the Qatar-based preacher, who backed the revolt and called it “a day from God”. His sermons are broadcast on Al Jazeera television.
Traffic flowed early on Friday through Tahrir Square, which became a tent city and the nerve-centre for the revolution that toppled Mubarak, as red-capped military police guided traffic alongside army officers and troops.
Life in Egypt is still far from normal almost a week after the popular revolt focused on Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, with tanks on the streets, banks closed, workers on strike and schools shut.
The revolution in Egypt, a strategically important US ally which has signed a peace treaty with Israel, has sent tremors through the region. Demonstrations have erupted in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran and Iraq, taking their cue from Egypt and Tunisia before it.
“Tomorrow will be a million people march to protect the revolution and its demands,” Mohanned tweeted.
Security officials said prime minister Ahmed Shafiq will announce new ministers making up the new emergency government early next week on Sunday or Monday and hoped the reshuffle would appease protesters and those on strike.
“Shafiq will announce the new government early next week ... Sunday or at the latest Monday and hopefully this will convince people to turn to their daily affairs,” an official said.
“We will welcome everyone to the new Egypt. A new country that started in Tahrir Square. A country of unity, peace, freedom and justice for all,” Laila said on Facebook.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which says it seeks to achieve a democratic Islamic state by peaceful means, is seen as the only truly organised bloc in Egypt and believes it could win up to 30% of votes in a free election.
Qaradawi’s sermon is expected to focus on telling the faithful about the importance of their role in building a free and democratic society in the world’s most populous Arab nation.
Other groups planned a simultaneous demonstration to “apologise” to Mubarak for the way he was ousted and recognise his achievements in his three decades in power.
Organisers said the Mubarak sympathisers would be wearing black, with the victory marchers in white, and organisers said they hoped that the rallies would be peaceful.
The marches, starting in different parts of Cairo, were expected to gather momentum after midday (10000 GMT) prayers. Demonstrations were also likely in the port of Alexandria.
The army has kept the population on its side during the turmoil and promised to lift a decades-old emergency law, but is under pressure from activists who spearheaded the revolution to act swiftly to protect civil freedoms in the new Egypt.
CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION
An Egyptian prosecutor on Thursday ordered the detention of three ex-ministers and a prominent businessman pending trial on suspicion of wasting public funds.
The army is pledging to hand power to civilian parties when they are strong enough. Opposition forces sidelined or enfeebled under Mubarak’s authoritarian rule are beginning to mobilise.
The new youth party the “Revolutionaries of Tahrir Square” said it will join protesters in Tahrir to celebrate and press for the demands of the revolution.
Ibrahim Darawi, one of the founding members, said the yet-to-be registered party would back more protests if needed.
“The founders’ goal is to move Tahrir Square with all its diversity and political resolve to the party,” Darawi told Reuters. “We oppose one-man leadership and stress that leaders must be from the youth,” he added.
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First Published: Fri, Feb 18 2011. 01 29 PM IST
More Topics: Protests | Middle East | Bahrain | Yemen | Military |