The Egyptian military, for the first time publicly laying out the terms of its rule, said Sunday that it had dissolved the country’s parliament, suspended its constitution and called for elections in six months, according to a statement by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces read on state television.
The announcement went a long way toward meeting the demands of protesters, who distrusted both houses of parliament after elections in the fall that were widely considered corrupted.
The announcement came only minutes after the prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, made his own appearance on state television and said the country’s economy was “stable” and that the primary focus of the new caretaker government would be “to bring security back to the Egyptian citizen.”
It was unclear whether the two statements were meant to compliment each other. The military did reiterate though that the civilian cabinet would remain in place over the next six months.
In Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, cars began circling the roundabout for the first time in over two weeks as Egyptians and tourists flocked around pictures of dead protesters that hung from clotheslines at one end of the square.
The police, civilians and soldiers with guns slung over their shoulders effected a form of impromptu crowd control, forming human chains to keep the crowds from spilling into traffic.
Nearby, about 500 police officers joined protesters at the Interior Ministry and shouted for better wages.
Even as pockets of protests continued, a measure of normalcy returned to the capital as Egyptians awaited word from the new military-led government on its impending negotiations with opposition groups.
Just two days after Hosni Mubarak relinquished his post as president and withdrew to the resort of Sharm el Sheikh, the form of the military council to which he had ceded power began to take shape. The military statement confirmed that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, 75, considered a loyalist of Mr. Mubarak, was the council’s leader.
The military has sought to reassure Egyptians and the world that it would shepherd a transition to civilian rule and honor international commitments like the peace treaty with Israel. But even though it had begun acting on the protest movement’s demands, it was still unclear how or when military leaders would meet directly with protest leaders in order to start the process of bringing opposition figures into the government.
Exultant and exhausted opposition leaders claimed their role in the country’s future over the weekend, pressing the army to lift the country’s emergency law — which suspending the constitution would seem to do — and release political prisoners. And they vowed to return to Tahrir Square next week to celebrate a victory and honor those who had died in the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule.
The impact of Egypt’s uprising rippled across the Arab world as protesters turned out in Algeria, where the police arrested leading organizers, and in Yemen, where pro-government forces beat demonstrators with clubs. The Palestinian leadership responded by announcing that it planned to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by September. And in Tunisia, which inspired Egypt’s uprising, hundreds demonstrated to cheer Mr. Mubarak’s ouster.
photo: Remaining protesters argue with Egyptian army soldiers trying to lead them away from Tahrir Square, as the military attempts to enable the resumption of normal life in Cairo, Egypt Sunday morning, Feb. 13, 2011. Protesters were debating whether to lift their 24-hour-a-day demonstration camp in Tahrir.