(Updates with protesters at Cabinet in third paragraph.)
Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of Egyptian protesters demonstrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against military rule, as Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the country’s top officer, ignored demands to delay parliamentary elections.
The so-called “Legitimacy of the Revolution” protesters also oppose the military council’s premiership appointment of Kamal el-Ganzouri, who served under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, as prime minister. Parties and alliances, including the Egyptian Bloc, said they supported calls for a “national salvation government” and demanded delaying the elections, scheduled to start tomorrow, for two weeks until a cabinet is formed to guarantee better voting conditions.
The military council has agreed with a number of politicians to form a “civilian consultative council” comprised of at least 50 members of political parties and groups, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported today, citing an unidentified official with presidential candidate Amre Moussa’s campaign.
Protesters seeking an end to the military rule have been occupying Tahrir Square for more than a week. Deadly clashes last week between security forces and protesters have threatened to derail the elections and disrupt attempts to secure financing for an economy still struggling to recover from this year’s revolt that toppled Mubarak. Some protesters continued to demonstrate outside of the country’s Cabinet, calling for the appointment of a government headed by presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei. The entry into Mohamed Mahmoud Street, where some of the deadliest violence took place, was closed today.
The elections will be held on time, MENA reported today, citing military council head Tantawi. The council, which took over from Mubarak, has said it will stay in power until a presidential poll before the end of June.
“Egypt is at a critical juncture now,” the news agency cited Tantawi as saying. “It either succeeds” or “faces grave consequences, which we will not allow.”
“We all agree that holding elections is an important step toward establishing democracy,” Hani Serie El-Din, a member of the presidential council of the Free Egyptians Party, said in a telephone interview late yesterday. “The problem is this requires two things in order to have a smooth and successful vote: to ensure security and have a new government.”
The Free Egyptians Party, co-founded by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, is a main member in the Egyptian Bloc alliance, one of the groups calling for the delay to elections. ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was willing to give up his presidential bid to lead the “national salvation government.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest Islamic group which is expected to emerge as one of the largest blocs in the new parliament, said it won’t accept a delay in the vote.
The economy grew 1.8 percent in the fiscal year to June 30, its weakest performance in at least a decade. Standard & Poor’s cut the country’s credit rating to B+, four steps below investment grade, on Nov. 24, citing renewed violence amid a “highly polarized political landscape” that has weakened public finances and will further reduce international reserves.
--With assistance from Mahmoud Kassem in Cairo. Editors: Sharon Lindores, Colin Keatinge
To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org
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