Low turnout Determination Friday in Egypt

Ekram Ibrahim , Saturday 9 Jun 2012

Islamists mostly absent from demonstrations at Tahrir Square, with low numbers overall

Protesters take pictures with Egyptian flags during a demonstration against the verdict of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak and against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik after Friday prayers in Cairo's Tahrir Square June 8, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Demonstrations on Friday at Tahrir Square ended as most of the couple of thousand protesters dispersed by late evening. Dubbed the ‘Determination Friday,’ protests rejected the verdict handed out last week against former president Hosni Mubarak, and demanded the exclusion of Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq from the presidential runoffs due to be held on 16 and 17 June.

Tahrir Square was mostly filled with revolutionaries of secular and liberal backgrounds, alongside small numbers from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Nour Party. Members of the April 6 Youth Movement and the Ultras football fans were amongst the demonstrators as they have been since the verdict of the Mubarak trial.

However, the turnout was lower than expected, with low participation from Islamist trends. Activist Aida El-Kashef told Ahram Online, “the Muslim Brotherhood joined the Tahrir Square protests last week to gain the revolutionary vote. Since they have now almost succeeded in this, today is not important for them.”

This view echoes a criticism many activists have of the Muslim Brotherhood joining or dismissing protests in Tahrir Square according to their short-term interests.  

Following sexual harassment last week in Tahrir Square, there was an anti-sexual harassment protest that started outside Hardees Restaurant where a particularly severe incident of harassment had taken place. Reports of harassment continued through today.

“Similar harassments and similar harassers, I think these sexual attacks are systematic aiming to push women out of Tahrir Square,” activist Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. Ibrahim recounted that as the protest marched from Tahrir Square around the downtown area, they were attacked by a group who targeted the women on the march.

Protesters had different demands with regard to the presidential runoffs in which Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood will be facing Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. While some protesters advocate voting for Morsi, others are calling for a boycott. There was hostility amongst some of the protesters, as many of those who want the revolutionary vote to unite behind Morsi think that a boycott will work to the benefit of Shafiq.

“I will vote for Morsi but it is like taking a bitter pill,” Salah Ahmed, 32, protester at Tahrir Square told Ahram Online.

Meanwhile, boycotters are hoping to make a showing during the runoffs by standing outside polling stations to make a clear statement.

Massive protests have been taking part in Tahrir Square since the verdict was handed down in the Mubarak trial. Cairo criminal court sentenced former president Hosni Mubarak and his long-time interior minister Habib El-Adly to life imprisonment for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during last year's protests that led to the ousting of Mubarak. Six police chiefs were acquitted of similar charges, some believe laying the way for a successful appeal on Mubarak and Al-Adly’s sentences.

One of the main demands is for the implementation of the Disenfranchisement law. According to the law, a limited number of individuals who served in top positions during the last ten years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule are ineligible to run for public office for the next five years. If implemented, that would mean Shafiq is out of the presidential race on the eve of the runoffs.

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