Military in Egypt Promises Speedy Elections As 100,000 Protest in Tahrir Square

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Tahrir Square today. Photo: KHALED DESOUKI/2011 AFP

Islamist groups and the ruling military council in Egypt met today and came to an agreement that calls for a presidential election by the summer of 2012, along with a new constitution. Protesters — more than 100,000 of them today — have gathered for a fourth straight day in Tahrir Square, fearing that the military council is tightening its grip on long-term power. Clashes between demonstrators and police have killed at least 23 people, and today led to the council's acceptance of the resignation of the country's first civilian cabinet.

"Those who have challenged or criticized the military council — like demonstrators, journalists, bloggers, striking workers — have been ruthlessly suppressed, in an attempt at silencing their voices," said Philip Luther of Amnesty International.

Until recently, elections might not have happened until 2013. The military's Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, insisted today on television that the process would be expedited. "The armed forces, represented by their Supreme Council, do not aspire to govern and put the supreme interest of the country above all considerations," he said. "They are fully prepared to immediately hand over power and to return to their original duty in protecting the homeland if that what they people want, through a popular referendum if necessary."