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Egyptian government makes new promises of reform

By Salah Nasrawi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 7 2011 4:50 a.m. MST

An Egyptian anti-Mubarak protester holds a banner reading in Arabic "If you love Egypt you don't still" at Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011. Egypt's vice president met a broad representation of major opposition groups for the first time Sunday and agreed to allow freedom of the press and to release those detained since anti-government protests began, though Al-Jazeera's English-language news network said one of its correspondents had been detained the same day by the Egyptian military.

Emilio Morenatti, Associated Press

CAIRO — The Egyptian government pledged Monday to investigate official corruption and election fraud but thousands of protesters swore not to move from the heart of downtown Cairo until President Hosni Mubarak steps down.

After two weeks of instability that pushed the most populous Arab nation to the edge of anarchy, the crisis appears to be settling into at least temporary stasis.

A series of government concessions have left the protesters dissatisfied but the scene has remained calm, with Tahrir Square resembling a carnival more than the rock-strewn battlefield of recent days.

Mubarak's regime appears confident in its ability for the moment to ride out what remains of an unprecedented storm of unrest, and maintain its grip on power, with Western backing, at least until September elections.

Judicial officials promised to start questioning three former ministers and a senior ruling party official on corruption charges on Tuesday. A detained Google Inc. marketing manager also was expected to be released.

Egypt's state-run news agency reported that Mubarak ordered the country's parliament and its highest appellate court to reexamine lower-court rulings disqualifying hundreds of ruling party lawmakers for campaign and ballot irregularities, that were ignored by electoral officials.

The ruling National Democratic Party won more than 83 percent of the 518 seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Implementing the rulings against NDP lawmakers could cause many to lose their seats and force the dissolution of the parliament and new elections if enough are disqualified.

On Sunday, Egypt's newly named vice president met with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups for the first time and offered concessions including granting press freedom and rolling back police powers.

Protesters in the relatively small morning crowd of several thousand on the square said they remained unsatisfied.

"Our main objective is for Mubarak to step down," said student Mohammed Eid. "We don't accept any other concessions."

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