What's Next In Egypt?

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After the Egyptian military dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution Sunday, Egyptian politicians, military leaders and the people who helped bring down President Hosni Mubarak are trying to figure out one thing: What's next?

GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Egyptian politicians, military leaders and the people who helped bring down President Hosni Mubarak spent today trying to figure out one thing: what next?

The military dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution. A few remaining members of Mubarak's cabinet met for the first time since last week. And in Cairo's Tahrir Square, young men and women painted over graffiti and swept up garbage. In another part of the square, other folks argued over what they should do now that they've toppled the man who ruled their country for nearly 30 years.

(Soundbite of people arguing)

RAZ: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Cairo. And, Lourdes, what does the military decree mean, practically speaking?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, disbanding the fraudulently elected parliament and suspending the unpopular constitution that was fashioned to keep Mubarak in power was what this revolution was all about, really.

So those are popular decisions. There are a number of issues that have to be resolved, though: first, who is the military going to start negotiating with, what members of civil society? The protest movement will be included in the run up to free and fair elections.

Second, what will be the relationship between the military and the protesters? We're already seeing them cracking down on protesters in the square. We are effectively under martial law right now. So there's no guarantee of civil rights in Egypt.

And it's not clear yet where all this is going, frankly. Will political prisoners be released, for example? What will the military do? The military has left what remains in Mubarak's cabinet in place, running the ministries. It's not really clear that that's sustainable.

RAZ: Mm-hmm. Now, earlier today, the acting Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq held a news conference. He seemed to suggest business as usual.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It was a completely bizarre press conference, Guy. Ahmed Shafiq seems at times angry; other times, he was frustrated and incoherent. He went on for hours.

He exhorted the population to go back to work, referring to the protesters as children who didn't know what they wanted. It harked back to the paternal, sort of patronizing tones of his former boss, Hosni Mubarak. And it must be said that Shafiq and the members of his cabinet who appeared today, the interior and finance ministers, seemed equally out of touch, as Hosni Mubarak did.

Ultimately, they seem powerless now. And the fact that they are still talking the way that they talked before really enraged the pro-democracy protesters still in the square today that I spoke to. They don't want to hear from Ahmed Shafiq. They want him and all the cabinet ministers gone.

And seeing those cabinet ministers speaking today, it really did seem that they were not in control at all.

RAZ: So it doesn't seem as if they'll be part of the transition?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, for now, they're part of the transition, certainly. I mean, they are the ones that are running the government. And I think what they're trying to avoid here is what happened in Iraq, where all of a sudden, you had upheaval, and the ministries stopped working, and it was absolute chaos.

It's very important here, obviously, for a number of a different reasons, for the police, for getting passports, for all, you know, all the functioning of a government to have those things in place. So they're really trying to send a message: Listen, we know this has happened, but it is business as usual.

Unfortunately, the message that sends to the protesters is that they really haven't heard what the protesters want, which is a real sense of reform.

RAZ: Lourdes, it sounds like you are outside right now. What did you see happening in Tahrir Square the last time you were there?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: On the one hand, you had a lot of young people cleaning up. They were sweeping, repainting, repairing, really trying to, as they have the whole time, show that they are responsible and peaceful.

But as the day waned on, more demonstrators returned to the square. They'd sort of been shunted off in the morning, sort of chased away by police and army, and they came back in the afternoon. And what you saw was this really interesting thing that I haven't seen there before, which is people arguing, really for the first time.

This movement, pretty much a leaderless movement, and they were all united with one thing, trying to get Hosni Mubarak out. Now that he's gone, divisions are cropping up. People are wondering, should they stay in the square? Do they need to have this protest movement continue to put pressure on the army to give them the reforms that they want?

And there were people shouting at each other. They had very different views on the matter.

RAZ: That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reporting from Cairo.

Lourdes, thanks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

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