Labour unrest as Egypt moves towards democracy


The Higher Military Council had urged Egyptians to put aside the revolutionary ardour, that has found expression in protests and strikes about poor pay and working conditions, in the interests of national unity and restarting the damaged economy.

Banks were closed across Egypt because of labour rows that were having a spillover effect across many sectors, while 12,000 workers went on strike at a textile plant in the city of Mahalla el-Kubra and Cairo’s airport was also hit by industrial action.

“Mubarak has left, but the problems are still the same if not more,” said John Sfakianakis, economist at Banque Saudi Fransi. “At this stage I would be more optimistic than last week given that you don’t have hundreds of thousands on the streets.”

There was a frenzy of rumour about the health of Mubarak, 82, who is holed up at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh after flying from his Cairo palace. In last-ditch addresses, Mubarak said he wanted to die in Egypt.

One Saudi official in Riyadh said: “He is not dead but is not doing well at all and refuses to leave. Basically, he has given up and wants to die in Sharm.” The official added that Saudi Arabia had offered to be his host.

Life was far from normal five days after Mubarak was forced from power by a whirlwind 18-day uprising, with troops and tanks on the streets of Cairo, schools and banks closed and Egyptians still finding their new found freedom hard to believe.

Meeting

Youth activists behind protests which toppled Mubarak asked for a meeting with the Higher Military Council, which has promised a swift handover to democracy and civilian rule, but had yet to receive a reply, a leading activist said.

With no clear leadership, the youth movement that was pivotal to the revolution because of its use of social networking sites to organise protests, is seeking to overcome divisions and unite to form political parties.

“There are various strands of youth who have similar demands. The next step is to unite their ranks,” AbdelRahman Samir, a youth activist who has previously met with the military council said. 

Opposition leaders are calling for the immediate release of political prisoners and the lifting of emergency laws.

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