Charting a road map for a political transition that was short on detail, Egypt's new military rulers have suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament and have set a six-month timeline for holding fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.
In doing so, the military has tightened its grip on Egypt's establishment, and announced unambiguously that it will be the custodian for steering the country's transition to democracy. It also appears to have met some of the opposition's key demands, which have been aired frequently during the course of the pro-democracy uprising, which began on January 25. The opposition has been calling for the dissolution of parliament, followed by fresh elections. This demand was reinforced after the recent parliamentary elections, which have been widely acknowledged worldwide as rigged.
However, several pro-democracy figures, including Mohamed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, have also demanded abolishment of the existing constitution and its replacement with a fresh document that better reflects the country's democratic aspirations. But instead of calling for a new constitution, the military statement on Sunday said a committee was being appointed that would amend the constitution, and then work out the rules to seek their approval directly through a popular referendum.
Responding to the military communiqué, opposition leader Ayman Nour called for the formation and involvement of a judicial panel that would help draft a temporary constitution for running the country, and a second committee to draft a new permanent constitution.
Analysts pointed out that the military, in its announcement on Sunday, fell short of meeting two other equally important opposition demands. First, it has avoided any reference to the opposition's demand for the formation of an interim government that should include a significant civilian component of opposition figures for steering Egypt's democratic transition. The statement said the caretaker Cabinet, which was appointed by Hosni Mubarak, who was President at that time, in the wake of the pro-democracy protests, would be in charge.
In the pro-democracy camp, some tensions have appeared between those who want the agitation to be kept on standby, and others who are demanding its continuation until all the major demands are met. A group called the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which includes members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and Mr. ElBaradei's young supporters, said it now wanted to get engaged in negotiations with the military. The group said it had nominated Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, and other prominent figures as their representatives for the talks with the military top brass. But the coalition's spokeswoman, Gehan Shaaban, expressing reservations about the military's real intentions, said: “We shouldn't trust the army… We should trust ourselves, the people of Egypt.”
The differences over tactics in advancing the revolution spilled into the open at the Tahrir Square on Sunday. Most protesters seemed inclined to wind up their encampment at the square, through which traffic began to flow for the first time in two weeks. As the military removed some tents from the square on Friday, several protesters called for a “march of victory.”