Cairo: Demanding that Egypt's ruling military council hand over power to civilians, thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square on Friday. Protesters chanted, ‘down with military rule.’ Rival political parties of Islamists and liberal youth groups joined ranks despite months of bitter disputes and accusations.

Islamists captured nearly 70 percent of the Parliament seats in last year's elections. They have stayed away from most street protests, hoping for accommodation with the ruling generals, who took power after Hosni Mubarak's regime was ousted in a popular uprising last year.

In recent weeks the Islamists have demanded that the military fire the Cabinet it appointed and allow the Parliament to form a new one, but the military has refused. Also, the main Islamist candidates for President were disqualified, stirring anger.

A Presidential election is due to take place on May 23-24 as the army has said it will hand over power to an elected president before July 1. However, Egyptians are concerned about the role the generals will play after the election and what powers the next President will have.

(JPN/Agencies)