Egyptians' Lives Continue Amid Protests
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
In Cairo today, some shopkeepers opened for business, taxi drivers took to the streets and people came out of the safety of their homes. These modest signs of normality broke through as demonstrators still maintained their vigils and the government held unprecedented talks with opposition groups that have long been banned from openly participating in Egyptian politics.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has been out and about in the city of Cairo.
And, Lourdes, tell us first about this meeting. It's big news - first meeting between the government and opposition groups. Who's there and what do you know about the meeting?
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, not very much. We do know that the opposition Muslim Brotherhood was in attendance. We do know that there were other opposition figures there, including, we hear, some representatives from the square for the youth movements that have bolstered this uprising. And so those talks are being held with Omar Suleiman, the vice president and pretty much as we understand it, the de facto leader of Egypt at the moment as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gets shunted to the side.
So, those talks are ongoing. We really don't know the substance of them but we do know that the Muslim Brotherhood at least said that they are holding out for the ouster for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. That is certainly what these protestors in the square want. They say that they won't hold any real formal talks until that actually happens.
The government, of course, wants a more smoother transition. Over the long term they say that Hosni Mubarak should be allowed to see out his term until September then elections will take place then. In the meantime, they are promising to institute reforms, like constitutional reforms and other reforms that will pave the way for free and fair elections.
HANSEN: Lourdes, how do you think these protests have evolved since they began just under two weeks ago?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I think we've seen a real evolution, certainly within the people in the square. They've become more organized, and not only politically but practically. You go into the square, you basically have to show your ID. People are bringing in food. People are bringing in places to sleep. There's a system in place now that allows people to sort of camp out and hold the square, if you will. It's become more formalized.
And then, politically speaking, the people in the square have always sort of been proud of the fact that they are leaderless, that this is a sort of revolution or revolt that cuts across all sectors of Egyptian society, but we are starting to see some organization. And, of course, they need to have that level of organization if they are to engage in talks with the government to negotiate the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak basically what comes next.
HANSEN: Well, President Mubarak has made clear he won't run again. But what do you think? Can a democratic transformation move forward in Egypt if he stays in power much longer?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That remains to be seen. I mean, certainly in the square these protestors that have galvanized this entire uprising say they will not leave until Hosni Mubarak is gone. That's the first thing that they want. And then they say they will have these talks. They will discuss what can come next.
But other people inside and outside of Egypt say, listen, this can't happen like this. There needs to be a slow transition. If not, it will lead to instability. Constitutional reforms need to take place. Other kinds, you know, opposition parties need to be legalized. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is in talks today, unprecedented talks, has been banned since the '50s here. Most opposition groups aren't allowed to run here.
And if you remember, for many, many years here, there weren't allowed to be any other presidential candidates in elections other than Hosni Mubarak. So, there needs to be a lot of different things that have to happen for the democratic reforms to really take root.
HANSEN: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Cairo. Lourdes, thank you so much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
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