Cairo: Clashes between Egyptian riot police and protesters stopped overnight for the first time in days on Thursday, though demonstrators occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square vowed to stay put until the army relinquished power.
“We want to stop these clashes, people are dying…they are young kids throwing stones at the police,” said 30-year-old protester Osama Abu Seree.
In the first significant pause in violence since Saturday, clashes stopped at midnight in Tahrir and elsewhere after protesters agreed with police to stay in the square.
But the thousands who thronged the square were undeterred in their determination to protest at the deaths of more than 30 people in the violence and reject the army’s offer of a referendum on its rule.
“He goes, we won’t,” declared one banner in a reference to the head of the military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
In light of the violence, Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy presented a report to the military council proposing a postponement of the parliamentary election planned for November 28, Al Jazeera television said on Thursday, quoting unnamed sources. It was not immediately possible to verify the report.
The election, due to begin on Monday, has been billed as Egypt’s first free vote in decades.
The army and the Muslim Brotherhood, which expects to do well in the election, says it must go ahead but many protesters are unwilling to trust the army to oversee a clean vote and hand real control of the country to the winner.
The generals’ popularity has waned in the nine months since they nudged President Hosni Mubarak from office and swore to steer the country toward civilian democracy, as suspicion grew that they were maneuvering to stay in power beyond elections.
Tantawi, has pledged to bring forward a presidential vote and offered a new interim government but the demonstrators are unconvinced.
“The military council must leave and hand power to civilians. They don’t want to leave so that their corruption isn’t exposed,” said 23-year-old student Ahmed Essam.
He said he joined the protests when he saw riot police raining blows on peaceful demonstrators on Saturday. “Everything is like in Mubarak’s time,” he said.