Clashes ease in Cairo, but underline Egypts fragile condition

The New York Times reports:

Clashes between the police and protesters that began Tuesday night and carried into Wednesday morning left more than 1,000 people injured in the worst violence to grip the capital since President Hosni Mubarak was forced from power in February.

The turmoil, which seemed to take almost everyone by surprise, demonstrated the fragile state of Egyptian society since the revolution, where almost any spark can ignite simmering tensions.

As the sun rose Wednesday over Tahrir Square, a now familiar tableau was revealed: sidewalks smashed to bits by protesters who hurled the pieces at the police, metal barricades dragged into the street, rubber bullets scattered around, and clusters of protesters declaring a sit-in in opposition to the heavy-handed tactics of the police.

“I am here today because I am appalled at how the police have treated protesters,” said Salma Samer, a 23-year-old student. “This is not what we called for when we took to the streets on January 25th. This is not the revolution we imagined.”

Meanwhile, McClatchy reports:

Egyptians largely reject U.S. involvement in Egypt and appear split on whether to extend the longstanding peace treaty with neighboring Israel. They overwhelmingly support the revolution and are eager to vote without delay, but haven’t yet identified a trusted party or politician to steer the nation toward their vision of an Islam-compatible democracy.

That’s the portrait emerging of Egypt’s millions-strong electorate as the country prepares for the first vote since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, according to survey results released in recent weeks by U.S. polling firms. With no single group garnering more than 15 percent of public support and the majority of voters still undecided, the poll results augur a closely contested parliamentary election this fall.

Until this year, such detailed polling was unheard of here — the government strictly controlled what questions outside pollsters could ask. Anything that might have exposed Mubarak’s deep unpopularity and Egyptians’ pent-up rage over rampant corruption, police brutality and poverty was strictly off limits.

Now, however, polling firms have a mostly free hand to ask what they will — though they apparently still aren’t allowed to probe whether the Egyptian military, which runs the country, should continue receiving billions of dollars in aid from the United States. Surveyors have rushed in to take advantage, some even setting up permanent offices in Cairo. Poll workers are crisscrossing the country, popping up in urban slums and rural villages with questions on once-taboo topics.

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