Egypt’s Military Rulers Speed Up Nominations for Presidential Election

Posted February 7th, 2012 at 2:06 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt's military rulers have sped up preparations for a presidential election, after protests calling for a faster transition from military to civilian rule.

State news agency MENA said Monday nominations for presidential candidates will be accepted beginning March 10, a month earlier than planned. Egypt's ruling military has pledged to hold a presidential election in June, but moving up the nomination process could allow for an earlier vote.

The election would be Egypt's first presidential vote since last year's popular uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition activists who want an end to military rule threw stones at police guarding the Interior Ministry on Monday, as police fired tear gas and set up concrete blocks to keep protesters away from the building. Medics say one person was killed, raising the death toll from five days of anti-government riots to 13.

The violent protests erupted in Cairo and the eastern city, Suez, after a February 1 football riot killed 74 people in the northern city of Port Said. Opposition activists accuse the ruling military and police of negligence and complicity.

In other developments Monday, the White House said an Egyptian government crackdown on foreign and Egyptian pro-democracy advocates could threaten Cairo's access to American aid.

Egyptian authorities on Sunday said 43 activists, including 19 Americans, must face trial on charges of illegal funding of pro-democracy groups and running organizations without required licenses.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the ruling Egyptian military's actions could have “consequences” for bilateral relations and U.S. assistance programs for Egypt, which receives more than $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Aaron Snipe told VOA that the United States hopes that talks with the Egyptian government will help officials better understand the work the non-governmental organizations are doing.

“We are deeply disappointed and deeply concerned with the developments that have taken place over the past few days in Cairo with regards to NGOs. It's not a good sign. That doesn't mean that that sign cannot be reversed. And, it's why we are engaging at all levels with members of the Egyptian government to clarify the role of NGOs. We think that's an important part of this, that the NGOs who have existed for many years in Egypt are there to support civil society.”

One of 19 Americans is Sam LaHood, a son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The Egyptian prosecutor's office Monday said at least five of the Americans, including LaHood, have been barred from leaving the country, while the others have left.