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Despite Some New Concessions, Egypt’s Protesters Holding Out for Revolutionary Change

Protester in Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mohamed Hossam/AFP/Getty Images

Egypt’s government fired 669 members of its widely criticized police force Wednesday in an attempt to concede to protesters’ demands, but analysts say even more than that is needed to quell the growing protests in Cairo.

Thousands of protesters have camped out since Friday in the city’s Tahrir Square — the site of massive demonstrations early in the year that resulted in President Hosni Mubarak stepping down in February. They are seeking fundamental changes in politics and law and the creation of a “rights-based state,” said Hani Sabra, a Middle East and Africa analyst with the Eurasia Group.

“The way the protesters look at the situation is that unless they’re out in the streets protesting, the government and in particular the military council won’t respond to their demands,” said Sabra.

The protesters view the military council, which is handling the transition to elections later this year, as an extension of Mubarak and as wanting to keep the status quo, he said. So when it makes concessions, such as firing the top police officers, making some Cabinet changes, and pushing back parliamentary elections — originally planned for September — to October or November to give political parties more time to prepare for the elections, they are perceived as too little too late.

“If they’d taken some of these steps two or three weeks ago, they would have had a much more powerful impact than they had just in the last 24 hours,” said Sabra.

The protesters primarily want a civilian-run government, rather than military-operated. And toward that aim, political parties are taking shape.

Five political parties have received licenses, including two Islamic parties — one of which is the Muslim Brotherhood — and three secular parties: the Free Egyptians, the Justice Party and the Egyptian Social Democrats, said Sabra.

In the meantime, it’s no surprise that the military council and protesters are butting heads, he added. “I do think that they will come to some sort of middle ground that doesn’t satisfy either of them completely but puts them in a position where they’re not on a collision course.”

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