Egypt tense as elections loom

A couple walk in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where protesters continue to camp ahead of elections, on November 27.

Story highlights

  • The head of Egypt's military warns of "dire consequences" if a political crisis continues
  • A member of a demonstrators' alliance says the group will announce a new government
  • Egypt is divided over the ruling military body and the newly appointed prime minister
  • Egypt's parliamentary elections are set to begin Monday

Streets in Egypt's capital remained tense Sunday a day ahead of elections.

As protesters packed Cairo's Tahrir Square, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued warning of "dire consequences" if the nation's political crisis continues, state-run Al-Masriya TV reported.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi said parliamentary elections would go ahead as planned Monday, and that he would not allow the military "to be pressured by any individual or entity," state media reported.

Meanwhile, a member of an alliance of demonstrators told Al-Masriya that a new proposed government would be announced later Sunday after meetings with Mohammed ElBaradei, a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner who is frontrunner for Egypt's presidency.

"We will ask the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to form a new government. We don't want to take the country into the unknown but (the council) must listen to our demands and our call to form a new government and cede power to a civilian transitional council," Mohammed Mamdouh, a member of the alliance of revolutionaries in Tahrir, told Al-Masriya.

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Newly-appointed Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri was appointed last week by Egypt's military rulers after former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his government quit en masse.

Ganzouri, who served as prime minister under President Hosni Mubarak, said he had asked for time to form a cabinet "that will be accepted by everyone." He told reporters last week that a new government could not be formed before Monday's parliamentary elections.

Ganzouri, who was Egypt's prime minister from 1996 to 1999, is to remain as prime minister until at least January 10, when results of the parliamentary elections are finalized, said Aly Hassan, a judicial consultant. After that, Parliament would have to back Ganzouri for him to retain the position.

Mamdouh said Sunday Ganzouri was the wrong man to lead the nation.

"Gazouri's government was born dead, and he doesn't have any legitimacy on the Egyptian street," he told Al-Masriya.

At least 42 people have been killed in recent demonstrations in Egypt, including at least 33 in Cairo. An additional 3,250 have been wounded, the Ministry of Health's Dr. Hisham Shiha said.

He said many of the casualties had been shot by "live ammunition, rubber bullets and birdshot."

Egypt's military leaders apologized Thursday for the deaths of protesters, vowing to prosecute offenders and pay the medical bills of the wounded.

The violence came as the country remains divided over the ruling military body and news that Ganzouri had regained his old role.

The high military council decided Friday to extend voting to two days for each stage of the parliamentary elections, scheduled to begin Monday, according to state-run Egypt TV.

Ballot boxes will be locked at 7 p.m. Monday and new boxes will be used on Tuesday, Ahmed Al Zind, head of Judicial Club, told reporters Saturday. "The ballot box for the judge is like a part of his body," Al Zind said. "Even though police and army will secure ballots, the judge is responsible. "

In all, 4,765 judges will monitor the three rounds of elections and report any violations to the Higher Committee of the Election Commission, he said.

The elections will also be observed by a delegation from the International Republican Institute as well as a U.S. congressional delegation "to identify and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in Egypt's election system, including campaign regulations, the balloting process, vote tabulation and reporting," the institute said Friday.