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Celebration Gives Way To Wariness In Egypt


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

The mood in Egypt has gone from celebration to a bit of wariness. Protestors who brought down the government are waiting to see what their military rulers have in store for them. Some demonstrators were back in Tahrir Square this morning. This time, the protestors were government workers, demanding better pay and conditions. The military council now running the country has suspended the constitution and disbanded a parliament that had been in the pocket of the former president. Those were two key demands of the protestors. But the army has not acted on another important demand to rescind the emergency law that's put opposition figures in jail for years.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is on the line with us from Cairo.

And Lourdes, what is the scene on the streets today?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, more importantly, Renee, it is: What is happening at the workplaces, at the banks, at the factories today? We had the revolution in the streets, and now we are having the worker's revolt, it seems. People are, as you say, demanding better pay, better working conditions, and crucially, that corrupt bosses be dismissed and sanctioned. The city is, on the surface, back to normal. I walked through Tahrir Square a little while ago, and there were protestors. But all the shops were open. People were walking around normally. But certainly, that's superficial. There's a real push to reform in the macro sense, but also in the micro way of how do we change the conditions of our life in the place that I work?

This, of course, puts the workers in a direct collision course with the army, who is running things. The military wants stability. It wants people to get back to work. This is going to put a lot of pressure on it.

MONTAGNE: Well, Egypt's army put out a communique, I gather, today, urging workers to, you know, play their role and basically not strike - not in order.

So I'm wondering if - but still, you know, pressure. I'm wondering if - how people feel about the army now that it's actually in charge. I mean, do they trust the army still?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They disbanded the parliament. They've abolished the constitution. So they have exceeded to some of the demands by the population. But certainly, there's a sense that these are old military men and not reformers.

I was speaking to some of the youth protest leaders today, and they were incensed that what is happening here is being described as a coup, for example. They feel that the military should not be deciding their fate, and they're very angry that Hosni Mubarak's Cabinet, for example, is still in place - still in place, because the military put them there. The army doesn't want to have what happened in Iraq happen here: chaos, followed by the collapse of government institutions, the purging of the management echelons who belong to the ruling party. That's their nightmare scenario. But certainly, for some people here, things have not gone far enough.

Some people are saying that Hosni Mubarak stepping down seems to have been only symbolic, and the real revolution has yet to take place. You know, as you mentioned, political prisoners are still being held, for example. These are very worrying signs to many here.

MONTAGNE: Now, we've heard that the young Egyptian Google executive who set up that Facebook group that helped kick-start the protest, that he's had talks with the military. I mean, what does that say about the leadership of what, in the outside world, has been characterized as a leaderless movement?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I can tell you this: There are clear and definite splits emerging among the protest groups. Some people are furious that Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and his loose association spoke with the military, and then their post online lauded the military. He said in that post that he was impressed with the military and their interaction. Other groups are saying, listen. Wael Ghonim does not speak for us. We don't want what he wants, necessarily. That's especially of the leftists among these groups, who feel that Wael Ghonim and that crew are more right-leaning, for example, more excepting of the status quo.

So, of course, the problem, then, becomes for the military and for everyone else: Who do you deal with? How does everyone get a seat at this table, especially right now when all of these different groups are trying to organize themselves and figure out a way forward?

MONTAGNE: Well, we'll be hearing more in the coming days. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.