Egypt's military rulers hope swift transition will restore stability

Updated: 2011-02-16 07:56

By Yasmine Saleh and Peter Millership (China Daily)

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CAIRO - Egypt's military rulers are expected on Tuesday to step up efforts to restore stability, hoping a promise of a swift transition to democracy will prevent a new flare-up in the protests which forced out Hosni Mubarak.

Facing a wave of strikes, the military rulers held talks on Monday with young activists who were at the forefront of the uprising which ousted president Mubarak on Friday.

Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who had been detained for his part in the uprising, said members of the military council had told him a plebiscite would be held on constitutional amendments in two months.

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik had let him know that he would reshuffle cabinet in the coming week to bring in opposition figures.

But with anger still smouldering over rising prices and economic hardship, the military faces a difficult balancing act in restoring stability while allaying deep suspicions about its readiness to relinquish power.

Using their new-found freedom of expression and protest, workers on Monday rallied in Cairo and other cities to complain about low pay and poor working conditions.

Protests and strikes have occurred at state-owned institutions across Egypt, including the stock exchange, textile and steel firms, media groups, the postal services and railways.

Protest leaders also say Egyptians will demonstrate again if their demands for radical change are not met. They plan a big "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the revolution.

Tuesday is a national holiday to mark the Prophet Mohammad's birthday.

The ruling Higher Military Council urged workers to return to work. In "Communique No 5" read out on state television, a military spokesman said: "Noble Egyptians see that these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results."

The military rulers have promised free and fair elections, suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament.

On Monday they appointed retired judge Tareq al-Bishry, respected in legal circles for his independent views, to head a committee set up to propose constitutional changes.

But the military has given no timetable for elections beyond saying it would be in charge "for a temporary period of six months or until the end of elections to the upper and lower houses of parliament, and presidential elections".



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