Tahrir Square won’t accept El-Ganzouri

Egyptians crowds in Trafalgar Square last February show their support for the Egyptian revolution
Egyptians crowds in Trafalgar Square last February show their support for the Egyptian revolution

The sit-in at Cairo’s Tahrir Square was continuing on Sunday with hundreds of protesters still occupying tents in the square while others continued chants against military rule.

The square’s central island and the sidewalks opposite to the Mugamma complex are still covered with tents.

Most entrances leading to the square no longer have security, although they remain blocked by ropes and metal barriers.

Despite attempts made by some in Tahrir Square to open the roads for traffic, the square remains blocked as some have refused the initiative.

Demonstrators, who also include those injured during the revolution, insist their demands, that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) hand over power to a civilian government, be heard.

Egypt’s interim rulers have so far defied their calls.

The SCAF also failed to appease Tahrir occupants after appointing Kamal El-Ganzouri, a premier under ousted president Hosni Mubarak from 1996 to 1999, as the new prime minister.

The Tahrir sit-in was initially triggered by a police attack against the revolution’s injured in Tahrir on 19 November.

The attack escalated to become a weeklong battle, leaving at least 40 protesters dead and thousands injured.

A member in Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has taken a swipe at protests in Tahrir Square, saying Tahrir does not represent the bulk of Egyptians.

‘I doubt that Tahrir really represents the aspirations of the Egyptian people,’ SCAF member Mamdouh Abdel-Hak said in an interview with Mehwar TV channel.

He added: ‘The Egyptians have succeeded in dismantling dictatorship following the departure of Hosni Mubarak, so I don’t think they will let in another dictatorship. They will not allow anyone to control their opinions.

‘Egypt is not only Tahrir; we are managing a country of 88 million people. Tahrir only represents the people in the square.’

SCAF supporters have gathered in Abbasiya district in Cairo for the past two Fridays, hitting out at Tahrir and giving the military junta a vote of confidence following deadly clashes between protesters and police that left more than 40 dead last month.

The number of Tahrir protesters who have camped in the square since 18 November has notably declined lately, following the beginning of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections.

But those who remain there are holding firm, saying they will not leave until SCAF appoints a new government with full authority to lead the country until presidential elections scheduled for June 2012.

‘Most of our initial nominations for the government were turned down by the political forces, so we implemented a sort of dictatorship by naming El-Ganzouri as the new prime minister, because we know well who is El-Ganzouri,’ the military’s Abdel-Hak added.

‘The political forces accepted El-Ganzouri’s appointment but Tahrir didn’t. We are acting in the best interests of all the Egyptian people, not certain factions.

‘El-Ganzouri, who has full authority, should be given the chance to achieve our aims.’

Meanwhile, El-Ganzouri’s ministerial reshuffle, which is yet to be officially unveiled, has provoked a flurry of criticism, considering many from the previous government will still hold their positions.

The official announcement of Egypt’s new interim cabinet, that was supposed to take place by Sunday, has been postponed until the end of the week according to official sources, after El-Ganzouri said Saturday that he will be reconsidering some of the names unofficially announced as ministers.

El-Ganzouri, who succeeds Essam Sharaf as interim prime minister, has been forming the new government that shall lead the country through the transitional period, due to end next year.

His appointment as prime minister in itself did not go down well with protesters.

El-Ganzouri is seen as an ex-regime member, not capable of standing up to the military junta and too old, at 78, to relate to the masses of younger protesters.

The anti-SCAF demonstrators sounded even more disgruntlement after several figures of El-Ganzouri’s government were mentioned, which showed the new premier has barely made changes to Sharaf’s cabinet.

Thirteen out of 27 ministers are staying put, although it is yet to be seen if El-Ganzouri will eliminate, add or combine any posts.

Keeping Osama Heikal as the Minister of Information was the most provocative decision, say many activists.

The state-run media, they believe, lacks credibility and has been blindly supporting SCAF over the past months.

‘For those who don’t know who Osama Heikal is: he is the head of the Egyptian version of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth,’ tweeted Tarek Amr, who defines himself as an author. Another tweeted: ‘Unfortunately, he’s strongly supported by one of SCAF members.’

Other ministers who have been announced that will remain in their seats are: Minister of Communications Mohamed Salem; Minister of Petroleum Abdullah Gorab; Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel; Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mahmoud Eissa; Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhri; Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Faiza Aboul Naga; Minister of Endowments Mohamed Abdel Fadil; Minister of Irrigation Hisham Kandil; Minister of Electricity Hassan Youness; Minister of Social Justice Gouda Abdel Khaleq, who is also to take over the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade; Minister of Agriculture Salah Youssef and Minister of Military Production Ali Sabri.

l Egypt’s Administrative Court ruled the annulment of the privatisation contract of the Arab Company for External Trade (ACET) on Saturday.

The ruling follows a law suit claiming the company was sold at a price significantly lower than the value of its assets.

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), an influential anti-privatisation body, says on its website that ACET was sold in 1999 for LE13 million ($2.1 million) to private investors Fouad Iskandar and Samir El-Adly.

At the time, the company held standing assets worth more than LE400 million, ECESR claims.

The law suit was raised by activist Hamdi El-Fakharany, better known for filing the controversial case against real estate developer Talaat Mostafa Group claiming corruption in land appropriation.

ECESR also says that only 50 per cent of ACET’s sale value was paid to the government by the investors, for whom the company was originally indebted.

Accordingly, ECESR demanded that investigations should be opened with then Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri and all officials involved in the case.

In September, a court ordered that three privatised companies be renationalised following a similar law suit claiming their sale deals were corrupt.

The three companies are Shebin El-Kom Textile Company, the Tanta Company for Linen and Derivatives and the Steam Boilers Company.

The court’s decision, however, has not yet been implemented as the Egyptian government is taking the case to appeal.

The ambiguous situation has left employees at the affected firms in limbo, as the private owners of the companies are reluctant to pay salaries awaiting a final decision.

This has led workers to take to the streets and demand a quick resolution to the legal case.