CAIRO, Egypt – As Egypt struggles to return to normal just three days after former president Hosni Mubarak resigned, hundreds of government workers went on strike Monday over wages and corruption.
The Egyptian transition government, led by the army, tried to contain a wave of protesters who defied orders not to strike. Bus drivers and ambulance workers walked off the job and a group of police protesters marched through the streets.
The instability comes as the Egyptian people are demanding to know what the next government will look like and how it will begin an economic recovery.
Tahrir Square, the site of last week's mass protests, was open to traffic and stores in Cairo have slowly begun to re-open. But the narrow streets are deserted and the café tables are empty.
Some salesmen sit bored without the tourists bringing hard cash to the economy. “No business at all. Even before the troubles, the business was low, very very low,” said one salesman.
Banks were closed Monday because of strikes and the stock market hasn’t reopened, a sign that the country hasn’t yet stabilized .
The army-led government satisfied some of the protesters key demands of dismissing the parliament and suspending the constitution ,but its been vague about when elections might take place.
A statement promised them inside of six-months but left out any details about what the new civilian government will look like.
“I anticipate problems because you can can’t move forward in a speedy process from one side to the other,” said Dr. Kamal Aboul Magd, a professor of constitutional law at Cairo University and a former minister of information under President Anwar Sadat. He was a member of one of the groups trying to rewrite the country’s constitution as the protests were gaining steam.
The anti-government protesters have largely cleared out from Tahrir Square but various other groups have decided now is the time to air their grievances. Bus drivers marched on the state television office and the much-feared police walked the streets shouting they were one with the people.
The police—after apologizing for the brutality during the protests that brought President Mubarak down —have returned to the streets, but it unclear if their tactics will change.
“There are no absolutes you can not change a society overnight,” said Aboul Magd in response to a question if Egypt could become a democracy in three years.
The army also faces a credibility issue as part of a regime that could never be taken at face value.
“If they don’t honor their pledge, young boys and girls will go back to Tahrir Square,” said Aboul Magd.
For those in the market and the stores, more protests would mean more empty streets, which has proven that freedom is not free.
“I don’t think it was wroth it but I hope it will get much better than before,” said the salesman.