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Egypt's Tahrir protesters take on Mubarak's man

Yasmina Muslemany / NBC News

Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday.

CAIRO, Egypt --The crowds of Egyptian protesters streaming into Cairo's Tahrir Square under flowing party flags on Tuesday night may have fallen short of expectations in terms of numbers but they did not lack anger and defiance.

Initially billed as a "Million Man (March) of Justice," the demonstrations were directed at presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq. Former President Hosni Mubarak had appointed Shafiq to the prime minister position in the dying days of his regime, forever tainting Shafiq with the brutal crackdown that killed more than 800 protesters in 18 days.


 

“Shafiq will never return (legally) through the ballot boxes,” declared protester Amr Sayed. Sayed does not belong to a political party but says he will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate to prevent a Shafiq victory. 

“There will be change,” Sayed said. “Forty percent of Egypt is young men. If Shafiq wins, we will overturn everything into fire and destruction. He can only win through fraud with the help of the military.” 

Egypt protesters torch candidate's headquarters

Yasmina Muslemany / NBC News

Housewife Nasreen Ahmed demonstrates at Cairo's Tahrir Square against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq.

Mostafa al Shimi, a retired military officer at Tahrir Square, said he had to follow orders throughout his career, whether right or wrong. Now a civilian, al Shimi wants a civilian president -- Shafiq, however, is a former air force general. 

Shafiq “can’t go anywhere without guards surrounding him,” al-Shimi said. “We feel that we are in danger with Shafiq, the military council and the deeply rooted regime. They are fomenting a counter-revolution.”   

A protester at the square screamed in rage, “If Ahmed Shafiq wins even without fraud, we don’t want him. We are staying here. Kill us like you killed our brothers; we are staying here.” 

A teacher, her face and body enveloped in a black veil despite the heat, said she lost a cousin to the revolution. She said she deeply mistrusts Shafiq. 

Yasmina Muslemany / NBC News

Rawda Al-Araby, an Egyptian medical student, demonstrates in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a retrial of former President Hosni Mubarak.

During the revolution "Shafiq said, 'Let the protesters stay in Tahrir and we will bring them candy,'" said the teacher, who would not identify herself. "The candies came in the form of bullets that killed our children, brothers and martyrs." 

Video: Judge hands Mubarak stiff sentence

Shafiq’s supporters believe he will restore law and order, but the veiled school teacher worries that security will come at a price. 

“Shafiq says he will restore order within 24 hours,” she said. “That means he has the power to set the regime’s thugs on us.”

New revolution?
Protesters at Tahrir Square see a Shafiq victory as a return to the Mubarak days. 

Nasreen Ahmed said it isn’t fair that Shafiq, the former prime minister, is running.

“People died in the streets to remove the old regime,” Ahmed said. “It wasn’t so the old prime minister could become the new president.” She hopes the spontaneous demonstrations that have filled Tahrir Square since Saturday will herald a new revolution. 

Can Egypt's voters force candidates to compromise?

Yasmina Muslemany/ NBC News

A demonstrator in Tahrir Square who identified herself as an Egyptian citizen said she came to protest against candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, former president Hosni Mubarak's former prime minister.

Egyptians across the country were incensed by the Saturday verdict that sentenced Mubarak and his Interior Minister to life imprisonment but exonerated his two sons and six Ministry of Interior officials. Although anger at the verdicts prompted large numbers of demonstrators to take to the streets, it is deep-seated hatred of Shafiq that is keeping them there.    

“We will stay here until the election results come in,” promised al Shimi, the retired military officer. “When Morsi (the Muslim Brotherhood candidate) wins, we can tell him we are the ones who put him there.  We will tell him, ‘Tahrir put you in office, now what are you going to do for the people who will hold you accountable?’” 

Tahrir Square occupied as anger grows over Mubarak verdict

Many are voting for Mohamed Morsi because they believe he will be more susceptible to protesters’ demands than Shafiq. Others say Morsi is as untrustworthy as Shafiq.   

“I don’t like either of them; they are both the same,” said medical student Rawda al Araby. “I won’t give my vote to either of them in the elections.

Mechanical engineer Ahmed el Beguirmy, 27, said he would also advocate a second revolution but he does not believe this is it. 

What would trigger another revolution?

Beguirmy said that would happen if the military government refuses to hand over power.

Yasmina Muslemany/ NBC News

Mostafa al-Shimi, a retired military officer, protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square against the candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, former President Hosni Mubarak's one-time prime minister, who finished second in the first round of the presidential race.

Taha Belal contributed to this report.  

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