Tens of thousands of Egyptians demanded on Friday that their military rulers stick to a pledge to hand over power by mid-year after a row over who can run in the presidential election raised doubts about the army's commitment to democracy.
Two leading Islamist candidates, one representing the Muslim Brotherhood who was seen as the frontrunner, were among those disqualified this week from a vote that starts on May 23-24, drawing a storm of criticism from supporters and the candidates.
Khairat al-Shater, the Brotherhood's former candidate, said his ejection showed the generals who have ruled since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year had no serious intention of quitting. The movement is now fielding a reserve candidate.
"We are all here to protect the revolution and complete its demands," said Sayed Gad, 38, a pharmacist and Brotherhood member. He had joined a protest which attracted both Islamists and liberals to a packed Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
A council of generals, who stepped in 14 months ago after mass demonstrations in Tahrir and elsewhere sapped Mubarak's power, has led Egypt through a turbulent transition punctuated by spasms of violence and frequent protests against their handling of the move to democracy.
The army says it will stick to its timetable to hand power to a new president by July 1 and has promised to oversee a fair vote. But some remarks from military officials suggesting the army might also seek now to have a new constitution in place before that handover - an impossibly tight deadline for many - has added to popular worries about the military's ambitions.
"Down with military rule" and "The people want the execution of the marshal," some protesters chanted, a reference to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's defence minister for two decades who now leads the ruling military council.