Islamist Protestors go on strike in front of Defense Ministry

Hundreds of Egyptians gathered near the Defense Ministry in Cairo on Saturday, demanding an end to the military rule and disbanding an election commission they accuse of bias.

The protesters, mainly Islamists, started a strike near the ministry’s headquarters in eastern Cairo, as military police forces were deployed to stop them from advancing.

The bulk of the protesters are supporters of the ultra-conservative Salafist Hazem Salah Abu Esmail, who was excluded earlier this month from a presidential race, due to begin on May 23.

The election commission said that Abu Esmail’s mother was a US citizen, in violation of criteria set for standing for president.

The protest is held prior to a scheduled meeting between the country’s military ruler Field Marshal Hussain Tantawi and political leaders for talks on breaking a deadlock over the formation of a panel to be tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Earlier this month, the Administrative Court suspended a constitution assembly dominated by Islamists, after more than 20 members quit the panel, citing an unbalanced make-up.

The military rulers cancelled the constitution days after taking over after a popular revolt deposed long-standing president Hosni Mubarak.

The new constitution is expected to clearly define Egypt’s identity, presidential powers and the army’s future role in the country’s politics, according to Gulfnews.