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Egyptians pack Tahrir for protest and celebration

People celebrate two weeks since downfall of Mubarak.

February 25, 2011 1:53 by



Egypt’s new military rulers, promising to guard against “counter-revolution”, faced political pressure on Friday to purge the cabinet of ministers appointed by Hosni Mubarak as thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo.

On the eve of the rally that will also celebrate two weeks since Mubarak’s removal, the military, which has promised elections within six months, assured Egyptians there would be “no return to the past” of the Mubarak era.

In a gathering at Tahrir Square, which will also remind the military of the people power that ended Mubarak’s 30-year iron rule, activists are urging the military to overhaul the newly appointed cabinet and install a fresh team of technocrats.

“Friday is another day of protest to bring together Egyptians who bravely ousted Mubarak but still struggle as remnants of the old regime try to hang on and ruin the revolution,” activist protester Sameha Metwali told Reuters.

In the fragmented political arena of post-revolutionary Egypt, those with wealth, whatever its source, may still be able to win power and influence in elections. For decades past, voting in Egypt has been determined by thuggery, bribery and manipulation.

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organised political group, and others are particularly concerned about the key portfolios of defence, interior, justice and foreign affairs and want a clean break from Mubarak’s old guard.

The military, facing strikes over pay and working conditions as well as turmoil in its western neighbour Libya, treads a fine line between granting people their new freedoms and restoring normal life.

Having dissolved parliament and while preparing a referendum to amend the constitution to dismantle the apparatus that kept Mubarak in power, the military has effectively banned strikes and urged the nation to get back to work.

The military told the Arab world’s most populous nation on Thursday night to guard against “attempts to create strife”.

“The military council emphasises that it will take all steps to fulfil its promises, so that there is no return to the past and the sublime goal is to achieve the hopes and aspirations of this great nation,” the military said on its Facebook page.

Jubilant crowds started to gather for the protest early on Friday. Men, women and children, many carrying the Egyptian national flag, streamed towards Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests that toppled Mubarak.

The atmosphere was festive. Mothers pushed little children in strollers, with red, white and black Egyptian flags painted on toddlers’ cheeks.

Street vendors stood at rickety sidewalk tables, hawking t-shirts, buttons, flags and stickers saying “I love Egypt”, or “January 25, 2011″ — the day Egypt’s revolution began.



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