Tantawi Offers Referendum but Protesters Unimpressed

Egypt’s military ruler promises that election will be held on time, as protesters continue to call for him to step down.

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Elad Benari,

Protesters in Egypt (archive)
Protesters in Egypt (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Egypt’s military ruler said on Tuesday that presidential polls will be held by the end of June and offered a referendum on the immediate transfer of power, AFP reported.

In a televised address, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who took power after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, said he had accepted the resignation of the cabinet.

Tantawi emphasized that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) “does not aspire to hold power and is fully willing to transfer responsibility immediately should the people wish it, through a popular referendum if necessary.”

He noted that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s cabinet, which tendered its resignation on Monday, will continue to work “until a new government is formed... to handle the transition in cooperation with the Supreme Council.”

Tantawi said his council was committed to holding parliamentary elections on schedule on November 28 and to “electing a president of the republic by the end of June 2012.”

Egypt has been experiencing widening protests against the ruling military council in recent days, resulting in the deaths of some 30 protesters since the weekend.

Egypt's interim junta has been seen as an agent of the Mubarak-era status quo, wherein geopolitical and moderate secular political norms are preserved. 

The generals have also been widely accused of making a power grab in recent weeks for moving to stack the committee tasked with drafting Egypt's new constitution with delegates of their own choosing. They have also said they will not submit the military budget to civilian authorities for approval.

These feelings were also prevalent during Tantawi’s statement on Tuesday, as thousands of Egyptians continued to protest against him in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

“The people want the downfall of the field marshal,” the protesters chanted, according to AFP.

“We can't trust what he says. The ball has been in SCAF’s court for months, and they didn't do anything,” one protester told the French news agency.