Military support in Egypt has become paralyzing

Angry protests continued across Egypt as more than 100,000 jammed Cairo's main square Friday, demanding the military rulers step down. But those protesters were not the only ones in the street, as CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

The start of the Muslim weekend meant tens of thousands more people were free to join the crowds in Tahrir Square in the biggest turnout this week. They all want the same thing -- an immediate end to military rule.

But across town, the military's supporters came out too, demanding that the generals stay in power until a new president is elected next summer.

Two demonstrations -- two entrenched camps -- have paralyzed the country.

Yehia Ghanem, the editor of Al-Ahram international newspaper, said it's a dangerous crisis. "I hope there will be a consensus quickly in this country," he said, "because I guess the country is going down the drain."

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The man appointed by the military to build consensus is Kamal Ganzouri, the newly-named prime minister -- but in fact, an old veteran of Hosni Mubarak's regime. He told journalists he wants to name a broad-based unity cabinet.

"I hope," he said, "that the youth and all political parties will submit names."

But that didn't impress demonstrators in Tahrir.

"The guy is 77-years-old, for crying out loud," said a woman, "in a country where more than 50 percent of it are young people. So does he represent real change? Of course not."

On Friday night, there's political stalemate in Egypt after a week of turmoil that's left some 2,000 people injured and over 30 dead. It's an ominous prelude to the first round of landmark parliamentary elections, which the government said will go ahead as planned on Monday.

The elections have been organized in stages: about a third of the country goes to the polls on Monday. Everything will depend on turnout. If it's well over 50 percent, that will bot only legitimize the process, but calm things down. Outside the political pressure cooker of Cairo, millions of Egyptians want both a return to stability and a chance at democracy.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."