CAIRO — Egypt’s interim prime minister and cabinet offered to resign Monday in the face of a bloody third day of protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, adding to the crisis of legitimacy for the nation’s ruling military council.
It was unclear whether the ruling military would accept the resignation, news of which was greeted with cheers by tens of thousands of protesters crammed into Tahrir Square. A report on state television said the generals were seeking a potential successor as prime minister.
If accepted, the resignation would bow to the protesters’ demands as leaders across the spectrum — liberals and Islamists — endorsed a call for a “million man march” Tuesday to demand a new civilian government of national unity. It was unclear if the so-called “national rescue” government would replace or continue to report to the ruling military council.
After a meeting Monday of about two dozen political groups, a top leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who attended the event delivered a collective apology for their delay in joining the protesters’ calls for the military council to relinquish its power.
But the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized political force, and its newly founded political party, later announced that they would not attend the march. It was the latest sign of the group’s equivocation over the protests, which threaten to delay the timing of the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak nine months ago and which are now scheduled a week from Monday — a vote in which the Brotherhood is poised to reap big gains. A growing number of political leaders privately acknowledged growing doubts that the elections would take place next Monday. But without the announcement of a new government any postponement of the elections could set off a firestorm, and all parties have called for the elections to proceed as scheduled next week.
Meanwhile, the army and security forces resorted to increasingly lethal violence against protesters in Tahrir Square to hold back a continuing siege of the interior ministry headquarters a few blocks away.
The Egyptian health minister said that 23 people had died and that more than 1,500 been wounded since Sunday morning. Doctors in a field clinic near Tahrir Square and a major hospital reported seeing as many as ten patients killed by live ammunition. Speaking on condition of anonymity, three doctors at the hospital each said that administrators had told them not to disclose the use of live ammunition.