Egypt’s military chief of staff said on Wednesday the army may transfer power to an elected president on May 24 if the vote is decided in the first round, state television reported.
The military had previously said it would transfer power by the end of June. The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24 and a run off for June 16 and 17 if there is no outright winner in the first round.
Few Egyptians expect anyone of the 13 candidates to secure more than 50 percent support in the May 23-24 vote, which is likely to go to a run-off in June.
Political party leaders met members of the ruling military council hours after 20 people were killed when armed men attacked anti-army protesters near Cairo’s Defense Ministry.
“Now we are studying how to end the violence. Today the military council said it would hand power over on May 24 if there is an outright win in the presidential election,” Ahmed al-Fadali, head of the Democratic Peace Party, told reporters, echoing comments by other politicians after the meeting.
The army’s message appeared intended to cool talk that it might use the unrest as a pretext to delay the vote.
Protesters have accused the military of seeking to cling on to power. Even after a formal transfer, the military is likely to retain a broad influence on politics, analysts say.
The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the meeting, which the generals had called to defuse a crisis between the Islamist-dominated parliament and the army-backed government.
Meanwhile, Egyptian presidential candidate Abdul Muniem Abul Fotouh called off campaign events of the day over authorities’ handling of the anti-army protests. His rival, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi also decided to suspend his campaign for 48 hours “in solidarity with the protesters.”
Scores of injuries have been received at the field hospital in al-Khalifa al-Maamoun Street, in Abbasiya neighborhood, Egypt’s al-Youm al-Sabea quoted Dr. Saleh Mohammed, a senior physician, as saying.
Unknown assailants attacked protesters who have been camping near the headquarters of the Defense Ministry for the past four days to voice anger at the disqualification of Salafist Hazem Salah Abu Ismail from the presidential race which is set for later this month.
The online edition of the state-run al-Ahram daily reported that the assailants attacked the protesters with cement-based bombs, stones, molotov bombs, birdshot guns and teargas canisters, according to eyewitness reports.
Protesters fought the attack with stones, and set up a second field hospital to treat the wounded, who included cases of broken limbs and suffocation due to inhaling teargas.
Meanwhile, a group of residents in the Abbasiya neighborhood in Cairo, where the sit-in and attacks against it have been taking place, marched on the area’s police station to call on the authorities to intervene to protect the peaceful protesters.
The first attack on Saturday reportedly left one protester dead and 119 others injured.
Meanwhile, al-Youm al-Sabea reported that Egypt’s Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) has called for an emergency meeting with representatives of different Egyptian parties and parliament members on Wednesday.
The meeting would reportedly focus on the latest developments regarding the panel designated to write the new constitution as well as the escalation and clashes near the Defense Ministry premises in Cairo.
The meeting is also expected to highlight the relationship between the government and the parliament, as the later threatened to withdraw the vote of confidence from the government of Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri.