Tens of thousands of protesters filled Tahrir Square in Cairo and the streets in cities throughout Egypt demanding that the country move forward with democratic reforms.
The rallies were the largest since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11. The protesters called on the ruling military to hand over power to a civilian council, draw up a new constitution, and postpone September’s parliamentary election until new political parties can organize, the Irish Times reported.
Many of the young liberal protesters are impatient with the pace of change since the fall of Mubarak, and feel they need to keep the pressure on the interim military government, the Christian Science Monitor reported:
“If we put on more pressure, we will get more results,” says Waleed Rashed of the April 6 Youth Movement, an organization that started as a Facebook group in 2008 and became one of the instigators of the Egyptian revolution. “We want to always remind the military and the government that we are here and we are following them day by day.”
The rallies were held despite opposition from the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that was significant by its absence, according to the New York Times. The group, which was banned under Mubarak, is established and organized, and is expected to present candidates for about 50 percent of seats in the coming parliamentary elections. Nevertheless, they will have to compete with the liberal parties of the young people who have been so active in Egypt's revolution and who continue to demonstrate the ability to gather large masses of people together.
Egypt's military was also conspicuous by its absence. In a statement on Thursday, it affirmed the right to peaceful protest and said its forces would stay away from the square, the New York Times reported.
Internal divisions were apparent at the rally in Tahrir Square on Friday, and the message was diffuse. Many of those present added demands for jobs and an improved economy to the more-immediate political goals. Some people were just too busy, or too tired of unrest, to attend. And though the Brotherhood wasn't present, the youth wing of the Brotherhood, which is close to many of the young liberal activists, did join the demonstration.
Though impatient, many of the young liberals are demanding that a new constitution be hammered out before elections are held, to minimize any one group's influence on that process.
The New York Times reported:
“Constitution First,” declared a banner at the center of the square on Friday, expressing the liberal demand for the establishment of rules protecting individual freedoms and minority rights before elections begin.