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Egyptian Council Promises Referendum on Power Transfer
November 23, 2011

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Egypt's ruling military council promised a referendum on the transfer of power to a civilian government, but the thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square and elsewhere continued to voice their preference for the military to give up its power now.

The pledge, in an address to the nation by Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi, the head of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, included a promise as well to have the presidential election in June 2012 and to have the full civilian government running the country by the end of next year. Parliamentary elections take place on November 28, but the council had delayed the presidential election until much later, perhaps into 2013. 

In addition, members of the National Democratic Party, of which former President Hosni Mubarak was the most prominent member, have been cleared to run for office, setting up what could be a fierce battle with the Muslim Brotherhood, the political party that was long in opposition to Mubarak's government and that is the most organized among the contenders for next week's elections.

The ruling council has been in charge since the ouster of Mubarak, in March. The council has done away with a few of Mubarak's authoritarian measures, but the protesters who continue to gather in the streets of Egypt's largest cities insist that more is needed. Already, more than 12,000 people have been arrested and sent before military courts, and 13 of those have been convicted and sentenced to death. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have condemned the council's actions.

In the past few days, security forces responded to protesters' angry words and flung rocks by firing tear gas into unruly crowds and burning tents of protesters who had camped out in Tahrir Square. 

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who with his entire civilian government offered to resign a day earlier, appealed for calm amid the chaos. The military council has accepted the resignations but has said that the government will remain in power until it can be replaced, an eventuality that might take place by the time Mubarak's trial resumes, on December 28.



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