Hundreds of Egyptians from Islam-oriented political groups have protested in Cairo and other cities against an alleged bid to bring back officials from deposed president Hosni Mubarak’s government.
The gathering on Friday in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square was relatively small, according to reports, but thousands turned out in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria and hundreds in other cities for the nationwide protest.
Unlike a week earlier, liberal movements did not join the Islamists, exposing divisions less than a month before a vote that marks the final step in a turbulent transition from army rule.
“Down with the military council,” chanted demonstrators, calling on the generals who took over from Mubarak to step down.
Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Tahrir Square, said the protests were called for by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islam-oriented groups.
“It is not a huge turnout probably because this is the third week in a row that the same groups have called for protests. Maybe there is some protest fatigue,” Tadros said.
Suspicions over the army’s intentions were heightened in the past week when Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, was first thrown out of the race and then reinstated hours before the final list was declared.
Shafiq, like every president for the past six decades, has held a top military post. Shafiq challenged the constitutionality of the rule and was allowed to resume his campaign, while a court reviews the law.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which already dominates parliament, says it wants to prevent “a delay in handing over power in June and to protest at the attempt to revive the corrupt former regime”.
Confusion over who is eligible to run has highlighted the fragility of the democratic transition in the Arab world’s most populous nation and raised questions about whether and to what extent the army will meddle in politics after its hand over.
Generals who have ruled Egypt since Mubarak’s overthrow last year have pledged to hand over power by July 1 to a new president.
Thirteen candidates are running for the top job, whittled down from 23 in a tumultuous nomination process.
The vote is set to begin on May 23, with a run-off scheduled in June for the top two vote-getters.