Fighting In Tahrir Square Leads Egypt Elections

A night of intense clashes between protesters and police in Cairo has left hundreds injured and two dead. This comes just eight days before Egypt's first parliamentary election since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February. Merrit Kennedy in Cairo reports that protesters are angry about the way the ruling military council has handled the transition period.

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A night of intense clashes between protesters and police in Cairo's Tahrir Square has left hundreds injured and at least two people dead. This comes a little over a week before Egypt's first parliamentary elections since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February.

Merrit Kennedy reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: Early morning in Cairo, and protesters are building a makeshift barricade on a main road leading into Tahrir Square. This is the front line of their battle with police, and it's changing constantly. Shortly after, police fire a volley of teargas and demonstrators pull back to regroup.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEARGAS SHOTS)

KENNEDY: The confrontation between protesters and police began yesterday, when police knocked down tents in the square and tried to forcibly drive out a small group of protesters. More demonstrators came to their aid and fought back with stones, and eventually driving the police out of the square. Clashes have continued ever since.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

KENNEDY: Demonstrators in Tahrir Square say they're worried the military is trying to secure its own power even after elections. They're not satisfied with what they see as the slow pace to civilian rule.

PROFESSOR SAYED MOHAMMED: Everything is the same. Economic conditions are the same. No progress. No democracy.

KENNEDY: That was Sayed Mohammed, a lecturer in American literature.

With elections just over a week away, ongoing violence in downtown raises concerns.

ESSAM SHARAF: (Foreign language spoken)

KENNEDY: The Egyptian cabinet released a statement last night calling for calm. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf explicitly asked protesters to leave Tahrir Square.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS)

KENNEDY: But as protest marches continue to arrive in the square, the standoff is likely to continue as Egypt heads towards its first parliamentary election since Mubarak fell.

For NPR News, I'm Merrit Kennedy in Cairo.

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