The atmosphere in the Square on Friday was almost festive. We saw families with children, vendors selling food and drinks, and everywhere the red, white and black stripes of the Egyptian flag, face-painted on children, and thanks to a group of laughing teenagers, also painted on our hands. It was a diverse crowd, young and old, women and men, middle class and the very poor. We were welcomed and greeted warmly by many.
The crowd was friendly but determined in its commitment to fulfill the promise of the revolution. There were no speeches but constant chanting from groups throughout the Square, all with a similar message. Military rule must end. “How long will you stay in the Square,” we asked a young woman. “Until the generals leave power,” she replied. “The military should defend the nation not rule it,” said one of the many hand-written posters. An older man explained that the generals who took charge in February have lost their legitimacy and must step aside in favor of civilian democratic government.
Where the revolution goes from here is uncertain. The military council is digging in its heels and refuses to step down. It has appointed a new civilian Prime Minister, Kamal el-Ganzouri, a Mubarak-era apparatchik, but it refuses to accept independent civilian leadership. The generals have issued ‘guiding principles’ for the democratic transition that assert their right to veto constitutional provisions and exempt the military from parliament authority.
The democracy movement will not accept this. It has been reawakened by the events of the past week and will not relent until the military steps aside in favor of a fully empowered civilian interim government—one that can shepherd the country through the parliamentary elections that are now beginning, the constitution-writing process that will follow, and the presidential elections that all hope will complete the democratic transition and bring to power Egypt’s first popularly elected civilian leader.