Plans for Friday protest highlight political divides

Disagreements between revolutionary groups over protests planned for Friday reveal division between groups that took part in the recent 18-day uprising.

While some groups say the protests on Friday should be the start of a “second revolution,” others say the protests are unnecessary and refuse to participate.

The initial Facebook invitation called for a second revolution and aimed at reigniting the day of anger which took place on 28 January, which many consider a decisive day in the uprising. Most political forces, however, object to calling for a second revolution. They say the protests should be a way of pressuring the ruling military council and interim government to meet their demands.

The main demands, varying in priority for each group, are speeding up trials of fallen regime’s figures, drafting a new constitution before the parliamentary elections, stemming the use of excessive force, trying protesters in military tribunals, releasing political detainees, replacing some governors, ministers and the deputy prime minister Yehia al-Gamal and restoring safety to the streets. There are also economic demands to set a minimum and maximum wage and return fortunes stolen by Mubarak regime figures.

The Alliance of Revolutionary Forces, which includes 58 youth groups, is calling for a second day of anger followed by an open ended sit-in to express dissatisfaction with the SCAF’s performance. The alliance shares the political and economic demands of other groups and also demands the creation of a presidential council

“We’re calling for pressure by all means possible to get our demands. We’ve been suspending sit-ins for some time, waiting for our demands to be met, but all we’re witnessing is acquittals of corrupt figures so we decided to take a stand,” said Haitham al-Shawaf, member on the executive board of the alliance. “This is a response to all the situations taking place now that remind us of the old regime. We don’t feel that the revolution is happening, we feel that it’s ending.”

ElBaradei’s National Association for Change is calling the day “The People Want a New Constitution” to stress the importance of creating a new constitution before parliamentary elections, slated for September.

While the Youth of the Revolution Coalition also calls for a new constitution before the parliamentary elections, it is calling the day “The Friday of Political Reform.” The coalition focuses on demands for political reform and prosecution of Mubarak regime figures.

The coalition’s main grievance is the exclusion of various groups from government decision making. In its statement, the coalition says that many important decisions, like the move to issue the political participation law and the political parties’ law, were made without consulting the revolution’s youth despite repeated promises to put the legislation up for discussion.

“We are witnessing ineffective national dialogue while there is a monopoly on the making of decisions that will shape Egypt’s future. This transition period was made by the revolutionaries and their participation in it is mandatory, not optional,” said Nasser Abdel Hamid, a coalition member at a press conference this week.

Refusing to adhere to the Facebook call for a second day of anger brought the coalition under heavy attack by the Alliance of the Revolutionary Forces, which accused the youth coalition of demoting the day as part of a deal with the military to overcome the group’s marginalization. The alliance wishes to label the day “Friday of Political Reform” instead of “Friday of Anger.”

“As revolutionary forces, we are very surprised at the audacity with which the coalition distorts things since it wasn’t the one that initiated the call. Instead, it used the call to try enhancing damaged image that resulted from taking a position against the revolution. We are telling the coalition that we’re going to all the squares in a new Friday of anger and we’ve had enough of you because you are not worth our while,” declared the alliance on its Facebook page.

Most political forces are planning to protest during the day without joining the sit-in.

The Youth of the Revolution Coalition specified that its participation would extend from noon till 6, and rejected calls for a sit-in. Mahmoud Hetta, assistant in the Baradei campaign, says that the National Association for Change will not take part in the sit-in but is supportive to those who choose to participate. Meanwhile, the April  6 Youth Movement said that its decision on whether to join the sit-in will depend on how the day progresses.

Twelve groups have issued a joint statement disapproving of calling the protests “Friday of Anger” and warn of calls for violence, which it says endangers the revolution and Egypt’s security. Many experts have voiced similar concerns in recent days.

The Muslim Brotherhood announced on Wednesday that it would not participate in the Friday protest. In a statement, it announced that the ruling military council had adhered to the will of the people and that calls for a second revolution either constitutes a revolt against majority-rule or an attempt to cause a rift between the people and the armed forces.

A faction of Brotherhood youth, however, announced its intention to participate in Friday’s protest, in defiance of Brotherhood leadership.

The SCAF issued a statement on Sunday warning of suspicious foreign “elements” that spread false information about the ruling council in an attempt to create a rift between the armed forces and the people. These unspecified “elements,” it said, infiltrate peaceful protests and provoke confrontations with the military and police in order to damage Egypt’s security.

In eery resemblance of Mubarak's regime, the SCAF have arrested four activists since Wednesday and referred them to the military prosecution for giving out flyers promoting Friday's protest. The activisits are graffiti artist Mohamed Fahmy, film director Aida al-Kashef, musician Abdel Rahman Amin and April 6 Youth Movement member Ibrahim Abd.

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