Egypt marked the first anniversary of the revolution that ended President Hosni Mubarak's regime Wednesday, as masses filled Tahrir Square.
On Tuesday, ahead of the anniversary, head of Egypt's Military Council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi decreed a partial lifting of the nation's emergency laws, saying the draconian laws will remain applicable to crimes committed by "thugs."
It is a year since protesters inspired by an uprising in Tunisia took to the streets in Egypt and the January 25 anniversary has exposed divisions in the Arab world's most populous country over the pace of democratic change.
Concerned the generals are obstructing reform to protect their interests, the pro-democracy activists behind the "January 25 revolution" plan marches to Tahrir Square to demand the military council that replaced Mubarak hand power to civilians immediately.
But well-organized Islamist parties which dominated Egypt's most democratic election since army officers overthrew the king in 1952 are among those who oppose a new uprising.
Signs of friction were on show as hundreds of people began to congregate in Tahrir Square late on Tuesday, pitching tents in winter rain and hanging the national flag from buildings.
Tahrir Square (Photo: EPA)
"The military council is Mubarak," said Amr al-Zamlout, a 31-year-old protester clutching a sign declaring "there is no change" and stating his aim was to topple the army rulers.
Mohamed Othman, an accountant, stopped to put forward a different view based on the idea that Egypt needs stability for economic recovery, not more protests.
"The council will leave power in any case. Sure the revolution is incomplete but it doesn't mean we should obstruct life," he said. His criticism quickly drew a crowd and touched off an argument.
Grocery stores were unusually busy as shoppers stocked up, reflecting concern at the prospect of a repeat of last year when protests went on for 18 days before Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11.
Protests against the military council turned violent in November and December.
AP and Reuters contributed to the report
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