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Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s television address was largely ignored by protestors in Tahrir Square on the second day of their open-ended sit-in.
Purging state institutions of former regime figures remains a central - if not the central - demand, and appears to have acquired the same power to unify and mobilize as the call for Mubarak to step down had during the 18 days of the revolution.
Around 6000 protestors remained in the square on Saturday night, some of them in tents pitched on the central grassy island underneath a huge awning providing shelter from the sun. Bands played on one of three stages erected in the square.
On Friday tens of thousands had responded to a call for a sit-in to protest the failure of the ruling Supreme Council for Armed Forces to realize the revolution’s demands.
A joint statement released by a several political groups last week made seven demands, including the immediate re-trial of civilians tried in military courts, the dismissal of the interior minister and attorney general, and that Hosni Mubarak and other former regime figures be tried for “political crimes.”
Sharaf’s pledge that police officers accused of killing protestors would be removed from their posts, among several other promises, was met with skepticism in the square.
“It’s too late and there is no explanation or apology for why this wasn’t done earlier. There’s also no guarantee that any of this will happen,” activist Alaa Abd El-Fatah said, pointing to the example of protesting university teachers who have been repeatedly promised that university deans - associated with the former regime - would be removed, yet they still remain in their posts.
Alfred Raouf, a member of the Free Egyptian group, stressed the importance of ensuring that former members of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party are banned from politics, saying, “if we don’t isolate these regime figures, we’re putting the whole revolution in jeopardy”.
Adel Qassem, a Zagazig University doctor who says he has protested continuously since 25 January, described Egypt as being in an abnormal situation in which the corrupt regime continues to rule.
Qassem called for all ministries to be purged of corrupt ministers, who he says must be replaced with people who prioritize the concerns of the poor. Demonstrators must maintain pressure “because without pressure [the government] doesn’t do anything,” he said.
“That’s the lesson of the revolution.”