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Ruling Council Soldiers on in Egypt as Protests Continue
February 15, 2011

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The military group now running Egypt is urging the country's citizens to get back to work, with the knowledge that constitutional reform is just around the corner.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has given a group of civilian scholars and judges just 10 days to come up with concrete changes to the country's constitution that would put in place a more representative government than the one that had supported former President Hosni Mubarak for 30 years. Tareq al-Bishri, a former head of the country's administrative court, is leading the group. Among the extraordinarily wide powers that this group now wields are the ability to "amend all articles as it sees fit to guarantee democracy and the integrity of presidential and parliamentary elections," among them the removal of the unlimited term of office for president and the direct path of law cases to military tribunals.

The military rulers outlined a six-month blueprint that immediately followed the constitutional reforms with a nationwide referendum and then ended with the already scheduled elections in September. Of significant interest on Tuesday was the announcement by the Muslim Brotherhood, long an opposition operation with some following but little power, that it would form a political party in preparation for the elections but would not submit a candidate for president. A lawmaker representing the group is on the council evaluating constitutional amendments.

Of growing concern to the ruling council is the continued scale of nationwide protests. Thousands of people still refuse to return to work, demonstrating in the streets and squares, and outside businesses in cities around the country. In the face of such protests, the central bank and stock exchange showed no signs of opening, as did many state-owned businesses, amoung them the country's largest exporter of clothes, Arafa Holding. This would have been grim news, especially given a recent report saying that Egypt had lost $300 million a day since the protests began in earnest on January 25.

Egyptians' success in toppling their government has emboldened protesters in other nearby countries, including Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen. Security forces in Iran and Yemen have actively engaged with protesters, resulting in violent clashes that have left some people dead. The largest of the protests, in Bahrain's capital, numbered thousands of people and was more peaceful.



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