Military police officers scuffle with protesters as they try to clear Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 14. Egypt’s military rulers dissolved parliament Sunday, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pro-democracy protesters.

Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo



A coalition of activists, Internet organizers, and opposition political groups that formed the backbone of the Egyptian revolution joined the country’s new military rulers today for a “getting to know you meeting.” They promised to hold the new regime’s feet to the fire on political reform.

“The military is more or less trying to meet with all of the groups involved at this point,” says Ahmed Naguib, a member of the board of the Coalition of the Youth of the Jan. 25 Revolution. “The meeting was just to tell them that a lot of demands have not been met yet. That’s why we’re calling for a million-man march on Friday, to remind them that sovereignty is back with the people for good.”

Egypt is in a period of incredible political ferment, with the military promising to usher in the substantive democratic reform that hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanded on the streets of Cairo and beyond.

But the military, an integral part of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, faces skepticism from some in Mr. Naguib’s umbrella group – as well as a potential challenge from laborers who have launched a series of strikes to capitalize on the revolution’s momentum.

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A few hours after the meeting, the junta issued a communiqué with ominous hints for how ongoing protests will be dealt with. The military said further protests will harm national security and urged protests – particularly labor strikes – to stop.
While it stopped short of outright banning demonstrations, the use of the language of national security – the statement also warned of the chance that “irresponsible groups” will take advantage of further protests to harm Egypt – strongly implied that it won’t stand aside indefinitely.

The military’s promises

The military pushed former President Hosni Mubarak from power on Friday and took charge for what they say is the good of the nation.

On Sunday, they dissolved both houses of parliament, suspended the Constitution, and promised sweeping political reforms to allow for fair elections within six months. At that point, the military junta led by Gen. Mohammed Tantawi (ret.) has promised, they will return to barracks.

Mr. Naguib says his umbrella group for young democracy activists, which includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and young supporters of former United Nations nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei, told officers today that they intend to keep the military to its promises.

He says organizers are confident that they’ll be able to energize large protests at the end of the week, even as military police cleared away the last vestiges of the extraordinary pro-democracy encampment that took over Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square during the popular uprising that started on Jan. 25.

Is he right? The Egyptian military has been urging Egypt to get back to work and is seeking to project an air of normalcy. Many of the youth who mobilized at Tahrir have been inclined to trust the military, and average Egyptians are wary of a confrontation with the military after two weeks in which the Army stayed neutral and allowed Mubarak to be swept aside.

“At the start, a tactical choice was made by the protesters to put the military on a pedestal and try to push it in the direction of the people, and I think that’s been an effective strategy,” says Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brooking Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar. “But the relationship is going to get a lot harder. Before, the military was a third player. Now they are the regime.”