Egypt's ruling military council has moved up the date for the transition to civilian rule and accepted the resignation of the government headed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi announced Tuesday (November 22nd).
Tantawi said the military council would hand over power to a civilian government on July 1, 2012, following presidential elections in June 2012. Previously, presidential elections were planned for the end of 2012 at the earliest. Tantawi also confirmed that parliamentary elections would continue on schedule next Monday (November 28th).
Tantawi's televised speech comes in response to escalating confrontations between the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the youth movements and demonstrators rallying in Tahrir Square. According to AFP, at least 28 people died and 1,200 were wounded in clashes that have been on-going since demonstrations began on Saturday.
During the past few days, demonstrations against the government and the SCAF spread beyond Cairo to a number of other provinces, including Alexandria, Fayyoum and Suez.
Deputy Minister of Health Essam Shiha said in press statements Monday evening that many of the protestors suffered critical injuries from "live rounds, rubber bullets, bird shot, stabbings, bone fractures and excessive tear gas inhalation, among other causes".
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators descended on Tahrir Square on Tuesday afternoon to participate in the "National Salvation Million Man March" called for by more than 18 political movements and parties.
The political parties called on the ruling military council to hand over power to a national salvation government with full authority to manage the transition and establish a clear timetable for the transfer of power to an elected parliament and president as soon as possible.
The April 6 Movement announced its demand for the immediate formation of a civilian presidential council comprised of presidential candidates Mohamed ElBaradei, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail and a representative of the armed forces.
"The present crisis cannot be simply solved by accepting the resignation of the government and the appointment by the SCAF of a new government that is devoid of authority," a number of political parties said in a joint statement issued Tuesday. "These solutions no longer work since the situation has escalated and the blood of the revolutionaries has been shed."
The majority of youth movements announced they would hold protests in Tahrir Square until their demands are met.
In response to the demands of thousands of demonstrators who started protests in Tahrir Square on Saturday, the government headed by Prime Minister Sharaf offered its resignation on Monday.
"In recognition of the difficult circumstances the country is undergoing at this time, the government is continuing to perform its duties in full, pending the SCAF's decision on the resignation," the prime minister's office said in a statement.
The statement also called on citizens to "exercise restraint and remain calm to allow for stability in the country to be restored, in order to pave the way for implementing the first stage of the democratic process by holding parliamentary elections on schedule".
The SCAF invited all political entities to participate in an urgent dialogue Tuesday to examine the causes of the deepening crisis and come up with ideas to overcome it "as soon as possible to ensure the safety of the country".
The council also charged the Ministry of Justice with forming a committee to investigate the clashes that took place in Tahrir Square.
Clashes between protestors and security forces continued in Tahrir Square and in streets leading to the Ministry of Interior until noon Sunday, when Egyptian security forces and reinforcements from the army stormed Tahrir Square to break up the protest by force.
However, the protesters regained control of the square a few hours after the troops withdrew. Clashes continued between protestors and the security forces on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which leads to the Ministry of Interior from Tahrir Square.
Activists and political party members told Al-Shorfa that the current political crisis in Egypt poses many challenges to the transition period, most notably the collapse of trust between the ruling military council and the youth movements that emerged from Tahrir Square and launched the revolution.
Abdul Rahman Samir, a member of the Revolution Youth Coalition, told Al-Shorfa that the government and the military council are carrying out the same policies of the former regime, "as if the Egyptian people had not had a revolution for freedom and building a democratic state".
He said trust between the political movements, which allied millions of Egyptian youth, and the government has collapsed completely.
"The coalition decided to return to Tahrir Square and turn the clock back to January 25th until its demand for the formation of a national salvation government and the handover of power to elected legislative and executive branches as soon as possible are met," Samir said.
Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, said what took place in Tahrir Square was due to "the government's neglect in applying and respecting the standards of transitional justice, the most important of which is settling with and compensating the victims in accordance with international standards".
Amin said authorities insisted on holding military trials for civilians and activists, while members of the former regime were tried in civilian courts, despite their involvement in corruption and killing demonstrators.
The events in Tahrir Square have cast a shadow on the campaigns of parliamentary candidates. The first round of parliamentary elections is scheduled to begin November 28th in nine provinces, most of which are experiencing a state of heightened security alert and instability.
The liberal Wafd Party has called for postponing the parliamentary elections for two weeks until stability is restored and a solution to the current political crisis is formulated.
On Tuesday, Cairo province announced that losses in public and private property are estimated at 20 million pounds ($3.33 million), including damage to sidewalks, trees, public buildings and cars. Meanwhile, the Egyptian stock market lost more than 10 billion pounds ($1.67 billion) in the first hours of trading on Tuesday alone.