No doubt the military is feeling a sense of urgency with all the violence in and around Tahrir Square. And they have apparently run out the string on delaying until the secular parties can get better organized in order to challenge the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt's military rulers rejected calls Thursday to delay parliamentary elections scheduled to take place next week and issued a strongly worded statement that has the potential to further polarize the country as it reels from a week of violent protests.
The statement called on "honorable people" to apprehend those causing strife and turn them over to the authorities. The vague directive could encourage vigilantism between camps supportive and critical of the military as the unrest that has left at least 38 dead and thousands wounded continues to sow anger and frazzle nerves.
"Egypt is going through a decisive moment in the history of its revolution that demands alertness and solidarity from each and every one of us in order to stop the state from turning and from entering into a state of complete chaos," the statement said.
The communique was the latest in a series of moves the country's military leaders have made this week in a thus-far futile attempt to restore order and salvage their damaged reputation.
"This is the military spreading chaos, and it's very, very irresponsible," said Heba Morayef, an Egypt researcher for Human Rights Watch. "It fits in with their narrative, which is the military is the neutral guardian of security which enjoys the trust of the people. That's why they would much rather have private citizens involved in identifying 'thugs' and 'agents.' "
The protestors aren't going anywhere, which is to be expected since their minimum demand is the immediate transfer of power to a civilian council. That isn't going to happen which makes the next few weeks a crucial test of wills between the military and the protestors. The demonstrators have already proved that intimidation won't work - Mubarak tried it and look where it got him. But with the economy near collapse, it's possible that the protestors will have other things to worry about shortly besides who is running the government.