In the wake of the most intense protests since the last days of Hosni Mubarak's presidency, Egypt's government resigned as a group, hoping that their exit would help ease tensions in Cairo's Tahrir Square and elsewhere around the country.
With just a week to go until the newly authorized parliamentary elections, the mood in the country has become increasingly violent and angry, with police going to extraordinary lengths to clear Tahrir Square of protestors, whose numbers swelled to 10,000 at one point. During the weekend, security forces fired tear gas into crowds and later burned tents belonging to protesters who had camped out in the square. The one-day death toll was 24, including confrontations in other cities, including Alexandria and Suez.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which appointed the government that just resigned, said that elections would go on as scheduled and would take place in fits and starts in the next few months, with elections for the new president not taking place for at least a year and possibly not until 2013. That last development has been a sort point for many protesters, who want the ruling generals to step down much sooner than that.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council, did not immediately accept the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and the rest of the government, but Sharaf made it clear that he would go, leaving the military in charge of the country for the foreseeable future. That idea has certainly been a worry to protesters, especially in the wake of the ruling council's recent announcement that it would not be bound by decisions made by the newly elected parliament.
The military did announce one thing that was sure to please some of the protesters: a law that prevents anyone who has been convicted of corruption from accepting a government appointment or from even running for office.
Notably absent from the protests of late has been the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized of the political parties and a key contributor to the original protests. The Brotherhood has chosen to focus on winning seats in next week's elections. As a result, the unifying force that the Brotherhood brought to the February protests is missing, and that has led in some cases to violence from protesters lacking direction.