By Sarah El Deeb / AP
CAIRO: Hundreds of Egyptian demonstrators briefly blocked a main Cairo bridge over the Nile river Thursday to back their call for an end to military rule, a sign of growing concern that the generals might try to cling to power.
The protesters stopped traffic on the Oct. 6 Bridge during a peak traffic period, angering commuters. The bridge was blocked for more than an hour.
An organizer told a private TV station that the move was an escalation ahead of a larger rally planned Friday by Egyptian political and revolutionary groups to protest the ruling military council’s handling of the transition period and calling for their quick exit.
Egypt’s military took control after longtime President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in a popular uprising in February 2011. The generals have pledged to turn over power to a civilian government by the end of June, but in the turmoil over upcoming presidential elections, some Egyptians are worried that the military might try to hold on to power.
The presidential election is scheduled to begin May 23-24.
“It has been four months since the revolutionaries did anything … but the crises have increased,” said Hesham El-Shal, a coordinator for “the second revolution of rage” group that organized the bridge sit-in, a rare move by the protesters, who have mostly gathered in public squares or outside government institutions.
The generals have asked the political forces to finish writing a new constitution before the election. That process has been stymied by an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood, which dominates the new parliament, and other Islamists to claim a clear majority on the body that is supposed to draw up the document.
That led to resignation of a quarter of the 100 delegates and a court ruling that the body must be reconstituted — setting off a process that could itself take more than the month left before the voting, even before a constitution is written. The military call for having a constitution in place before the election triggered suspicions that the generals hope to stay in charge.
Opponents say the generals should hand over the government now.
“There should be no elections and no constitution under their rule,” El-Shal told the TV station.
The transition has been marked by mistrust, mismanagement and violent clashes between protesters and security forces.
Islamists groups are joining the Friday rally, also after an increasingly bitter rivalry with the military rulers. Two prominent Islamist presidential hopefuls, one from the Muslim Brotherhood and the other a popular ultraconservative Salafi preacher, were disqualified from running on technical grounds.
Their supporters are taking part in the Friday rally, accusing the generals of “hijacking” the revolution.
Mubarak’s former intelligence chief, apparently the military’s favored candidate, was also disqualified.