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Egyptian activists call for more transparency from military rulers

By Sarah El Deeb
Associated Press / February 17, 2011

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CAIRO — Egypt’s new military rulers came under criticism yesterday from a leading democracy advocate as well as from youth and women’s groups for what they say is a failure to make decisions openly and include a larger segment of society.

Five days after ousting Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising, Egyptians continued protests and strikes over a host of grievances from paltry wages to toxic waste dumping. They defied the second warning in three days from the ruling Armed Forces Supreme Council to halt all labor unrest at a time when the economy is staggering.

The caretaker government also gave its first estimate of the death toll in the 18-day democracy uprising. Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid said at least 365 civilians died, according to a preliminary count that does not include police or prisoners.

Mubarak’s departure set off a chain reaction of revolt around the Middle East, with antigovernment demonstrations reported yesterday in Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, and Yemen.

Democracy advocate and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei called on the council to include civilians in a transitional presidential council to be entrusted with setting the course toward democracy.

The former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency said in a statement that there is an absence of transparency in the way the military rulers are running the country’s affairs or making decisions that would affect the transitional period and the future of democracy in Egypt.

“The short transitional period . . . threatens to throw the country back in the arms of the forces of the old regime,’’ he said. “To prolong the transitional period without popular participation threatens to throw it back in the arms of dictatorship.’’

ElBaradei’s warning comes after the military rulers announced a new committee of legal specialists that would work to amend articles in the constitution to allow free elections later this year.

Critics voiced concern about the choice of those on the panel, saying the criteria for their selection was unclear.

More than 60 women’s and community groups condemned the panel, saying it is an all-male group that “excludes half of society.’’

“This casts doubt on the future of democratic transformation in Egypt after the revolution, and raises questions about . . . whether the revolution was seeking to free the whole society or only certain segments,’’ they said.

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