The long awaited statement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that aired on television Tuesday morning was met with diverse reactions from Egypt’s political groups. While many criticised its threatening tone; others welcomed it as a sign that demands are being heard and responded to.
A statement was released by several groups participating in the Tahrir Square sit-in criticising what was described as an underlying threatening tone in the SCAF speech. The statement added that the speech implied that those participating in the sit-in were endangering the country’s future. Those who signed the statement confirmed that they oppose attempts to divide the people. The statement criticised the slow pace by which justice is being served, upheld the sit-in’s demands, and called on others to support it.
Those signed included Revolution Youth Coalition, the Lotus Revolution Coalition, the Coalition of Progressive Youth, Mosharka (Participation) Movement, Bedaya (Beginning) Movement, the Mohamed ElBaradei for President Campaign, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, the Coalition of Egyptian Awareness Movements, Justice and Freedom Youth, Sahwa Movement, the People’s Alliance Party, the Democratic Front Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Free Egypt Party, El-Waiy (Awareness) Party and the Egyptian Current Party (which includes Muslim Brotherhood youth and Revolution Youth Coalition members).
However, some of the signatories issued statements independently, and some were milder in tone.
For example, the Free Egyptians issued another statement saying that the party believed SCAF’s statement to be a step towards meeting political demands for a civil state, since it included the decision to set constitutional principles. The Free Egyptians also condemned the blocking of roads or blocking Suez Canal traffic, adding that it upholds the right to freedom of expression but within certain limits.
The Hamdeen Sabahy for President Campaign also criticised the statement and described it as threatening. The campaign said that SCAF was expected to calm protestors by approving certain demands instead.
The National Council took a middle ground, urging unity between the military and the people, underlining the peacefulness of the demonstrations and warning against those who are trying to create violence and stir public opinion against the revolutionaries.
On the other hand, the Salafists declared their support for the SCAF statement.
Salafi cleric Yasser Borhamy said the speech clearly revealed the dangers that threaten the country and he called on all the youth to stay away from activities that threaten the country’s economy and embrace chaos. Borhamy said that Sharaf should be given week to fulfill the demands promised in his speech. He added that the solution was to hold elections soon and put all the corrupt on trial.
The Muslim Brotherhood has not declared a position on the military council’s statement.
While the SCAF statement affirmed that the council is still committed to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, General Mohsen El-Fangari, who read out the statement, also issued a stern warning against anyone who disrupting public order and public services.
The statement repeated some of the steps announced many times in the past few months, including that the ruling council would hand over political power to a civil administration.
The council announced for the first time that it intends to issue a new Constitutional Declaration in which the basic principles of the constitution, which is to be drawn up by a constituent assembly picked by parliament, are set out. Also, the declaration is to lay down the criteria by which the forthcoming parliament will pick the 100-member constituent assembly, as stipulated in the first Constitutional Declaration, approved by a national referendum last month.
Finally, in a clear reference to workers and others who are demonstrating and organising sit-ins in many cities across Egypt over long-standing wage and benefit issues, El-Fangari called on all Egyptians to put the country’s overall welfare above what he described as “sectional interests”.
In Tahrir Square, when the statement was first announced, protesters' dissent grew. Demonstrators vowed to continue their sit-in until the ruling military council steps down, gathering forces for a “million man march” on the cabinet headquarters a few blocks away.