O (AFP/Reuters) - Egypt's army ruler warned on Sunday he would not tolerate any pressure ahead of new protests demanding that he step down on the eve of the country's first elections since revolution.
Egyptians go to the polls on Monday to cast their first votes for a new parliament after the end of the 30-year rule of strongman Hosni Mubarak, forced from power in February in one of the seminal moments of the Arab Spring. The run-up to voting in the cultural heart of the Arab world and region's most populous country has been marred by violence and fears of chaos as the army, protesters and new political figures fight for influence.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads a council of generals who took power after Mubarak's fall, called on voters to turn out and said he would not buckle in the face of demands for the army to hand control to civilian leaders. Protesters have again occupied Cairo's Tahrir Square, epicentre of the mass protests that drove Mubarak from power, but this time their target is Tantawi and his fellow generals.
Thousands gathered on Sunday ahead of a planned "million-person march" called by The Revolution Youth Coalition to reject new 78-year-old caretaker prime minister Kamal al-Ganzuri, appointed by the army last week. "Down with the military" shouted a group of young men on the edge of the square underneath a lamp post from which an effigy dressed in army green was hanging by the neck.
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei has offered to lead a government of national unity, raising the pressure on Egypt's ruling generals amid protests demanding an immediate end to army rule.
Activists are calling on citizens to converge again in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday, a day before the start of a parliamentary election overshadowed by political turmoil and the threat of violence.