Protests continue as military moves to amend constitution

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

In less than a week since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down and handed all power to the military, economic and political changes have come in rapid succession, often catching the media off guard.

But political analysts agree that the military is faced with a herculean task of stabilizing the country, re- sponding to ever-growing protests in the govern- ment sector and rehabilitating an economy that has been battered by the sudden drop in foreign invest- ments and tourism dollars.

The Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces called on state employees to end strikes, which negatively affect the local economy, decrease production, and cause a general “state of confusion”.

The Council is also moving quickly, it says, to streamline the handover of power to a civilian ad- ministration within the next six months.

They announced the formation of a panel of experts late last week to look into amendments of several articles in the constitution in the hopes of meeting people’s demands for democratic reform and an overhaul of the electoral system. The panel is expected to deliver its findings and recommendations later this week.

The Council also re-instated Ahmed Shafik’s cabinet despite its unpopularity among many of the protesters and civil society.

Shafik replaced Ahmed Nazif in late January as part of the government’s efforts to offset mass pro- tests that shook the country. The political gambit failed.

Meanwhile, several other demands put forth by protesters have been met, including the dissolution of both houses of parliament, and the promise to hold fair and free parliamentary and presidential elections within the coming six months. Constitu- tional amendments will be put up for a general ref- erendum within two months.

The Council has reminded its citizens that its promises still stand. The military says it is com- mitted to lifting emergency laws once “the current circumstances end”. They also promised to pursue adjudication of election fraud, and legislative and constitutional amendments. The amendments will then be put to a general referendum.

Nevertheless, protests have continued to rock the country. From airport employees and textile workers to ambulance drivers and police offic- ers, government and public sector workers have persisted in demanding better pay, more equitable working conditions, and investigations into “cor- rupt officials”.

The banking sector was closed for three days last week amid a failure to resume normal opera- tions at the Cairo Stock Exchange. There are fears that many businessmen have been transferring funds abroad, leaving the country in a cash-strapped situation as it attempts to overcome challenges to resuscitate the economy.

Meanwhile, Egyptian media has been aggres- sively reporting about former cabinet ministers, government officials, and members of the National Democratic Party who have been accused of em- bezzlement and corruption. Several of these figures have been detained, prevented from travel abroad or put under house arrest.