Egypt's Military Rulers Back Down on Election Law, but Concerns Persist

Article excerpt

After thousands took to the streets of Cairo on Friday, Egypt's interim military council agreed to some electoral reforms. But the move has failed to allay concerns over how long the military will remain in power.

Under fierce pressure from a range of political parties, Egypt's interim military rulers agreed to meet some demands for electoral reform and laid out a tentative timeline for transition to civilian rule on Saturday.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took over when former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11 after a massive wave of protests in Egypt and promised to oversee a transition to democracy. But its use of Mubarak-era tactics of repression and the slow transition have angered Egyptian activists and protesters.

Mounting frustration erupted into protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, spurring the SCAF to announce changes to election laws that the parties feared would allow members of Mr. Mubarak's regime to easily win seats in parliamentary elections set for November.

While the move marks significant victory for political parties, it has failed to allay concerns over just how long the military intends to stay in power.

"Definitely [SCAF]l will be in power more than the six months it had predicted when it took power," says Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, political science professor at the American University in Cairo. "It is [a problem], because I think politically stability will not be restored in Egypt until all institutions are in place; once we have a president of the republic."

What the SCAF agreed to do

After a meeting with about a dozen political parties, the SCAF gave in to their demand to change election laws and agreed to allow international elections monitors, which it had previously opposed.

The military rulers also said they would amend the electoral law that had reserved one third of parliamentary seats for independent candidates. Parties will now be able to nominate members for those seats. …