They may come from different sects or political parties, and the may disagree on the precise nature of what a future Egypt should look like, but those gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo today, according to most reports, share one common message: 'Down with Military Rule!'
After a year since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime and following a flurry of recent rulings by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) surrounding recent presidential elections which have left the country in a state of tense political confusion, thousands are now gathering in Tahrir Square to condemn what they call a 'coup' by the military council.
As the crowds continued to gather at midday in Cairo, SCAF issued a statement regarding the current electoral impasse between the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Mursi and the Mubarak-era PM Ahmed Shafiq, who are both claiming victory in last week's run-off election. Official results were scheduled to be announce on Thursday, but the military council delayed that announcement. Though not yet available in English, the SCAF statement was being responded to on twitter:
The delay in the run-off results widely raised suspicions that the results were being negotiated rather than counted, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined many Egyptians by saying that it held concerns over the military's commitment to hand over power to civilian rule.
"The generals' relentless expansion of their authority to detain and try civilians now goes far beyond their powers under Hosni Mubarak," Joe Stork, HRW Middle East director, said in a statement.
"The interest of the nation goes before narrow interests," said reformist politician Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. diplomat and Nobel peace laureate on Twitter. "What is required immediately is a mediation committee to find a political and legal exit from the crisis. Egypt is on the verge of explosion."
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The Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate Mohamed Morsy says he has already won, called on supporters to mass in vigil at the birthplace of last year's Arab Spring revolt until the ruling military council rescinds orders that curb the new president's powers and also dissolved the new, Islamist-led parliament.
For many a Shafik victory would mean that the six decades of army rule they thought were over, will in fact go on.
The delay in announcing the results of two days of voting which ended on Sunday has also raised fears that the army may try to swing the election to Ahmed Shafik, a former air force commander whom Mubarak made prime minister just before his fall.
A result is not expected until Saturday or Sunday, giving the country a tense weekend, although the vast majority, many not greatly enamored of either candidate in the run-off, were staying at home and passing Friday's Muslim weekend as normal.
For many, both in the organized mass Islamist movements and in the more fragmented secular, liberal opposition, a Shafik victory, coupled with the military council taking powers over legislation and drafting a constitution, would mean that the six decades of army rule they thought were over, will in fact go on.
"This is a classic counter revolution that will only be countered by the might of protesters," said Safwat Ismail, 43, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who came from the Nile Delta. "I am staying in the square until the military steps down."
Mahmoud Mohammed, a bearded, 31-year-old marine engineer from Alexandria among a group from the more fundamentalist Salafist movement camping on the square insisted they were not looking for a battle, but wanted to see democracy installed.
"The people elected a parliament and they put it in the rubbish bin. We need the army to hand over," he said, adding: "No one came here for a fight. We need democracy."
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Agence France-Presse reports:
Thousands packed Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on Friday to denounce a power grab by the ruling military, as the nation nervously awaited the results of the first post-Mubarak presidential election. [...]
The Muslim Brotherhood has been has been holding crisis talks with the country's political forces for days, as it braced for a showdown with the military.
In the months following Mubarak's resignation in February last year, the Brotherhood lost the support of revolutionary groups, who accused the Islamist group of trying to monopolise politics.
But the power grab by the army has given the Brotherhood a new opportunity to reach out to them.
Morsi also spoke by telephone with Nobel laureate and reform campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as with former presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh ahead of the protests, said the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Brotherhood's political arm.
The Brotherhood would announce "a national project to defend the revolution," it said.
The April 6 movement, which helped launch last year's uprising that toppled Mubarak, said it would "continue to fight for the goals of the revolution."The April 6 movement, which helped launch last year's uprising that toppled Mubarak, said it would join Friday's protests to express "its rejection of the constitutional declaration" and "continue to fight for the goals of the revolution."
The National Front for Justice and Democracy said it rejected the constitutional declaration "which constitutes a military coup."
A recent set of measures consolidating the army's power has infuriated pro-democracy groups and raised concerns abroad.
The ruling SCAF assumed legislative powers after a court ordered the Islamist-led parliament dissolved and issued decrees giving the army powers of arrest and a broad say in government policy, rendering the president's post toothless.
Protesters have been in Tahrir Square since the constitutional document was issued on Sunday.
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