Conflict & Justice

Egypt: Protesters warmly welcome new Prime Minister in Tahrir Square (UPDATES) (VIDEO)


An Egyptian woman sits at Tahrir Square in Cairo on March 2, 2011 where protesters returned to push for political reform after more than two weeks of massive street protests forced former president Hosni Mubarak to resign on Feb. 11 after 30 years of rule.


Khaled Desouki

Essam Sharaf, appointed Thursday to lead Egypt's transitional government, was carried through Tahrir Square on the shoulders of pro-democracy campaigners who gathered in their thousands despite the resignation Thursday of Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

The protesters were making good on a vow to pressure the country's military rulers to deliver on their promises of reform.

Shafiq's resignation had been one of the protesters' key demands after 18 days of mass rallies forced former president Hosni Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11.

But protesters have continued to call for replacing the entire current government, which includes a Mubarak-era foreign minister, interior minister and justice minister, according to Al Jazeera.

Sharaf, the new prime minister designate named by the military supreme council on Thursday, took part in the mass rallies in Cairo's Tahrir Square which brought down Mubarak.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces named Sharaf, a former transport minister, as the new prime minister in a statement carried on its Facebook page on Thursday.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces decided to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and appointed Essam Sharaf to form the new government," the statement said.

It said it had tasked Sharaf with forming a new caretaker cabinet that would oversee the country's transition to civilian rule.

Sharaf on Friday acknowledged the work of the people in achieving a revolution in Egypt, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“I am here because I draw my legitimacy from you," he said, eliciting cheers from tens of thousands gathered here.

Since Mubarak's ouster, protesters have continued to call for a replacement of the current government, which includes several ministers from the toppled regime.

Shafiq's move is seen as a concession to protesters who are insisting that all cabinet members named by former Mubarak leave office. Mubarak named Shafiq, a former air force general, as prime minister on Jan. 31.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, posting on Twitter, called the move “a step on the right path."

“My sincerest appreciation to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for meeting the demands of the people,” he said in the tweet.

Sharaf, a US-educated civil engineer, served as transport minister from 2004 to 2005 and resigned following a deadly train accident, protesting what he called a lack of vision and resources to improve the country's railway system, according to Al Jazeera.

After quitting government, he returned to academia to teach as a professor at Cairo University.

Protesters had called on Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday to bring down Shafiq’s government, according to Bloomberg.

Al Jazeera's Cairo reporter, Sherine Tadros, said protests were still expected to go ahead but with a different message.

"They [protest organizers] want to keep up the pressure in terms of their other demands, like the release of political prisoners and the lifting of emergency law," she said. "But they're saying very clearly that they're not going to be calling for a sit-in."