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January 27, 2011

Egypt: protests echo national stance

Marwa Al-A’sar

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CAIRO: Tuesday's protests represent a national stance and a turning point in Egypt's history since the bread riots of 1977, said Amr El-Chobaki, senior researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies on Wednesday.

“It is the first time that we witness a protest that involves both activists and ordinary people together,” El-Chobaki told Daily News Egypt.

“In the past few years, we could only see a few hundreds protesting outside the Journalists’ Syndicate and people just passing by doing nothing,” he added.

According to El-Chobaki, “the recent protests bridged the gap between the virtual and the real world.”

“In April 6, 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement called on Egyptians to hold a nationwide strike. About 70,000 responded to the initiative online while those who actually [showed up on the streets] were almost a hundred,” he explained.

El-Chobaki said that the recent protests are characterized by major demands.

“People this time had demands that have to do Egypt’s political future, putting an end to corruption and calling on President Hosni Mubarak not to run for presidency,” he said.

El-Chobaki predicted that following such a major event, life in Egypt will get back to normal. “The situation might escalate again at any moment, though,” he said.

Al-Wafd party held the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) responsible for “the state of rage the majority of the Egyptian people” are in.

In a press conference held Wednesday at 1 am, Al-Wafd opposition party chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawy called for carrying out political reforms conforming to the demands of the Egyptian people.

Among the reform measures he called for is forming “a national salvation government” to fulfill the aspirations of the nation in a real reform.

Al-Badawy further called for dissolving the parliament and holding fair elections based on the guarantees the political forces sought.

He also called for forming a committee to write a new constitution that realizes the principle of the nation’s sovereignty and allows the devolution of power.

However, NDP MP Mohamed Aboul-Enein described Tuesday’s protests as being held by “a minority that does not represent the different segments of the Egyptian people.”

“Those who disrupted the public order were arrested,” Aboul Enein said. “The state gives citizens full freedom to express themselves.”

“If they have political demands, we can listen and hold discussions, but with no damages,” he added. “Some of them have reasonable demands like social justice, which I support.

Aboul-Enein expects the protests to be over after Tuesday. “This is opposition for the sake of opposition and nothing more,” he said.

He fiercely criticized the protesters who called for toppling the regime and dissolving the parliament.

“Mubarak is the man who maintained the stability of Egypt for 30 years. He was the one who regained our occupied lands and dedicated all his life for limited income brackets,” Aboul-Enein said.

Aboul-Enein said that there will be no official response on the part of the People’s Assembly (PA) or the NDP towards the protests.

“If there are reasonable demands we can adopt them under [the umbrella of] the PA…but we will not pay attention to any illegitimate demands,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs said in a statement Tuesday that “the United States supports the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people.”

“All parties should exercise restraint, and we call on the Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully,” the statement added.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described in a press conference the Egyptian government as being “stable… looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

Clinton called on all parties to “exercise restraint and refrain from violence.”

“Egypt is an ally of the US. So the US sought a compromise in its reaction,” El-Chobaki said.

Daily News Egypt.

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