A rash of cascading strikes and a call for million strong march on Friday has begun to challenge attempts by military authorities to cap Egypt’s blazing uprising, mirroring a fast intensifying tussle between the army and a hardened set of protesters who are now vying for additional political space.
On Monday, Cairo continued to reel under a spate of strikes, which affected work in factories and hampered services in banks and hospitals as well.
Pro-democracy activist, Hossam El Hamalavy posted on his website pictures of striking workers protesting outside the ministry of petroleum building. He said that thousands of workers are demanding the impeachment of Oil Minister Sameh Fahmy. Apart from several economic demands such as higher salaries, the employees are also airing political demands such as “stopping gas exports to Israel”.
Besides, they are calling for the reinstatement of sacked workers, as well as the right to form independent unions.
Ongoing protests by bank employees had prompted Egyptian authorities to declare Monday as an unscheduled bank holiday. The Egyptian stock exchange, one of the hubs of business has also decided to open only on Sunday, postponing its earlier schedule opening on Wednesday, the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on its website. The Chairman of the Stock Exchange Khaled Serry Seyam attributed the delay to “irregular work in banks”.
Al Jazeera is reporting protests, sit-ins and strikes in textile firms, media organisations, steel firms, the postal service, railways and the health ministry.
Meanwhile, a split also seems to be developing between those who wish to negotiate with the military authorities, and others who wish to establish an independent interim authority to steer Egypt’s political transition to democracy. Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and pro-democracy activist along with colleague Amr Salama held his first meeting with two military officials, Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Hijazi and Maj.
Gen. Abdel Fattah. Mr. Ghonim then said on Facebook: “We all sensed a sincere desire to preserve the gains of the revolution and unprecedented respect for the right of young people to express their
views.” The two also added that after suspending the constitution on Sunday, the military would now rewrite the constitution within 10 days and put it to a referendum within the next two months.
But slamming Mr. Ghonim for the meeting with what he called the “military junta,” Mr. Hamalawy said that he was “totally against opening a dialogue with (Mr.) Mubarak’s generals”.
Unable to defuse the protests, the military has appealed for an end to strikes. "Noble Egyptians see these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results,” the spokesman for the Supreme Council of Armed forces said in a communiqué on Monday. In a televised address, he called on “citizens and professional unions and the labour unions to play their role fully."
Earlier on Monday, the army and some protesters vied for control over Tahrir square, the icon of the pro-democracy uprising. Around 2,000 people assembled at the square, impeding traffic, shortly after the military and police cleared the last few remaining activists.