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Tantawi speech 'weak' and reminiscent of Mubarak, say political forces

Activists vow to continue Tahrir protest until the SCAF cedes power and reject proposal for referendum before junta steps down

Ahram Online, Sarah Raslan, Wednesday 23 Nov 2011
Marshal Hussein Tantawi
In this image from Egyptian state television military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi speaks to the nation late Tuesday Nov 22 2011. (Photo: AP)
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Egypt’s political forces have strongly denounced Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi’s first speech since demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square on Saturday to demand the ruling military junta step down from power.

Nineteen political forces have released a statement condemning the speech as an insult; noting the field marshal did not apologise for the violent clashes or mention the release of detained civilians facing military trials, one of the square's main demands.

The Democratic Workers Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Free Egyptian Movement, and the People’s Socialist Alliance Party are among the parties and forces that signed the statement.

The forces key demands, which they say Tantawi failed to address, are: the transference of power to a national salvation government; the return of the armed forces to its role of protecting the country, and the punishment of those responsible for killing martyrs during the January 25 Revolution, the Maspero clashes, and the recent Tahrir violence that began on 19 November.

The April 6 Movement, a popular youth movement, has described Tantawi’s speech as ‘weak’ and similar to those given by ousted president Mubarak. It warned such speeches would lead to increased anger.

It questioned the legitimacy of the political forces Tantawi mentioned speaking to during his speech, adding he merely choose the political forces that matched his opinions, not those of the people.

The movement rejected the field marshal’s proposal for a referendum on whether the junta step down, saying he did not assume his position through a referendum so there was no need for one before he steps down.

It also accused the junta of betraying the people by taking no action to stop the killing of civilians in Tahrir Square and said it would continue its open-ended sit-in until its demands are met.

The April 6 Movement has several key demands: the announcement of a date for presidential elections (no later than April 2012); the transfer of power from the SCAF to a presidential council with full authority; the return of the armed forces to its role of protecting the country; the formation of a national salvation government representing all political factions with sufficient powers to manage the coming period, and an immediate investigation into the Tahrir violence and punishment of those responsible.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the Equality Party has also vowed to continue the sit-in until the square’s demands are met.

The Egyptian Current, a revolutionary youth movement that lost two members in the Tahrir clashes, has said it rejects any dialogue or promises from SCAF before security forces end the violence against protesters and those responsible for causing the bloodshed are questioned.

Mohamed El-Beltagy, a leading Brotherhood figure and secretary-general of the Freedom and Justice Party, said he had expected Tantawi to apologise for the violence used in the square and promise to protect the peaceful protesters.

According to the Ministry of Health, 32 people have been killed since Saturday when security forces began using force in the form of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against peaceful protesters.

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