CAIRO—Thousands of Egyptians turned out Friday to celebrate the two-week anniversary of the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and demand the country’s military leaders “complete the revolution” by purging other top officials linked to the deposed president.
Coming a month after the Jan. 25 protest sparked an uprising that ended Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule, the crowd was in a buoyant mood, but also worried that the gains of the past few weeks could be reversed by a “counterrevolution” orchestrated by the former president’s cronies.
“We have cut off the head, but the rest of the octopus is alive,” said Ragia Dmran, a 38-year-old human-rights lawyer. Around her, vendors hawked bumper stickers and T-shirts that celebrated the revolution.
The demands reflect a difficult balancing act by Egypt‘s military rulers, who are trying to get the country back to work after a month of political instability while at the same time trying to address protesters’ demands to go after vestiges of the regime.
This week, the military appointed a handful of independent figures to the cabinet, but left key posts untouched, including that of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, a former air force officer and head of Egypt Air who was appointed by Mr. Mubarak midway through the revolt.
“We want the Shafik government out,” said Ahmed Hamdi, a 17-year-old student from Giza. “We want someone who doesn’t represent the old regime and isn’t scared of opening an investigation into his friends.”
A leaflet handed out by protesters said: “You think the revolution is over? It’s not. This is just the beginning.”
Other demands included the release of all political prisoners and the disbanding of Mr. Mubarak’s internal security agency, Amn al Dowla, widely viewed as repressive by ordinary Egyptians.
While the Mubarak era is over, the former president himself is ensconced in a luxury villa in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el Sheikh, angering some Egyptians who want him brought to trial for alleged corruption and other crimes.
Many in the crowd used the occasion to rail against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi for his bloody crackdown in neighboring Libya. One sign read: “Gadhafi: A cold-blooded terrorist plaguing Libya since 1969.” Scores of protesters waved the old Libyan flags that have been adopted by the rebels.
The Egyptian military, having been thrust onto the political stage, seems to be growing in public-relations skill by the day. Earlier in the week, members of the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces went on a popular TV talk show to announce they would be including some independents in the cabinet. On Thursday, the military posted a statement on its Facebook page, promising there would be “no return to the past” and swearing it would uphold the “sublime” aspirations of the people.
The military has dissolved Mr. Mubarak’s rubber-stamp parliament and this week appointed a committee to amend key articles in Egypt’s constitution, concerning the country’s emergency law, presidential term limits, judicial supervision for elections and rules governing constitutional amendments. Egyptians will vote on the changes in a referendum in two months.
The eight-man committee is headed by Tareq Al Bishry, a prominent legal intellectual and former judge who has Islamist intellectual leanings. It also includes a Coptic Christian and a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a once-outlawed Islamist group that was Egypt’s most powerful political opposition before the revolution.
Sobhi Saleh, the Muslim Brotherhood member of the committee, said Wednesday night that the committee had finished its work and that its proposed changes would be announced on Sunday following a review by the military council.
While nearly everyone agrees that the military seems intent on delivering democracy, some opposition leaders actually want elections to be postponed for a year to give nascent political parties enough time to organize for a vote. They worry that holding a vote too soon might give an unfair advantage to the Muslim Brotherhood.