Al-Ahram Weekly Online   6 - 12 October 2011
Issue No. 1067
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Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Transition causes a stir

In the face of schedules and counter-schedules confusion abounds, reports Dina Ezzat

"The military is not planning to field a presidential candidate. These rumours are not worth listening to," said Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi yesterday.

His words were clearly intended to end growing speculation that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is deliberately dragging its feet over the date of presidential elections in order to buy sufficient time to launch a military candidate.

Tantawi's appearance in a suit in downtown Cairo over the weekend was evidence enough for some to suggest he harboured presidential ambitions. Others have suggested that Chief of Staff Sami Anan is the military's preferred candidate.

Tantawi made his statement against a backdrop of ever more vocal dismay over the SCAF's plans for the transitional phase.

The SCAF schedule envisages the launch of parliamentary elections later this month (on 12 October, according to the Higher Elections Committee) when candidates could file requests to run for the elections. It proposes the elections to be held starting 28 November. It also proposes next spring as the time when work on drafting a new constitution should begin. It has specified no date for the presidential elections but insists they take place after the new constitution has been accepted in a public referendum.

The schedule has been met with anger on the political street.

Ending the transitional phase by bringing presidential poll forward is one of the demands being made by six potential presidential candidates who have been busy drafting an alternative schedule that will allow for presidential elections in April at the latest.

The candidates, who were finalising their proposals as Al-Ahram Weekly went to press, are expected to call on the SCAF to change its schedule in view of the widespread dissatisfaction it has caused.

The call for a shorter transitional phase is expected to be a dominant theme of the mass demonstration called for tomorrow in Tahrir Square.

Liberal groups are expected to be out in force because they want a speedy end to the transitional phase. Islamist groups, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Salafis, are expected to be there because they object to the SCAF's plan to draw up a fully binding code of ethics for the committee charged with drafting the constitution.

The longer the transitional phase, Abdel-Hamid argues, the greater the chance that what eventually emerges will replicate the worst features of the previous regime, limiting the achievement of the revolution to ridding the country of one figurehead, Mubarak, and preventing his replacement by his son.

Both Khalil and Abdel-Hamid insist the only way forward is to keep up the pressure on the SCAF. More marches and demonstrations will be necessary to ensure the situation develops in line with the "demands of the revolution" and a truly democratic system emerges.

The problem, Iskandar believes, is that political forces appear incapable of agreeing a common agenda so involved are they in the pursuit of partisan gains.

The confusion felt by the rank and file of political parties whose leaders signed up to the SCAF's scheme is symptomatic of the current crisis. Sources at several political parties say that members have accused their leaders of selling out the revolution in exchange for good relations with the SCAF".

The implicit consent of party leaders who attended the 1 October meeting with Chief of Staff Sami Anan to an open-ended extension of the state of emergency was the subject of particular anger.

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