Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Egyptian military swears in new cabinet as violence flares

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Egypt's deputy prime minister sworn in

RAW VISION: The head of Egypt's armed forces, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is sworn in as interim first deputy prime minister.

Egypt's military-backed interim leaders pushed ahead with the formation of a new cabinet on Tuesday, minus any representation from the former ruling Islamist parties and with the army chief taking on two senior roles in the transitional government.

Rising tensions between those for and against former president Mohamed Mursi, who was deposed on July 3 in what his supporters say was a military-backed coup, peaked again with the overnight deaths of seven pro-Mursi protesters and the injuries of hundreds of others in clashes across Cairo.

The clashes came after thousands gathered at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City on Monday night to call for Dr Mursi's reinstatement. By last night the crowds had shrunk and the mood was more subdued as families gathered to break the Ramadan fast and pray in the square.

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour, right, swearing in Ahmed Galal, left, as finance minister in Cairo.

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour, right, swearing in Ahmed Galal, left, as finance minister in Cairo. Photo: AP

Muslim Brotherhood leaders were dismissive of the new cabinet – which the interim leaders say they were invited to join – insisting only the reinstatement of the elected government would allow reconciliation to begin in Egypt.


"It is a military coup dressed up as a revolution," said Mohamed El-Beltagy, the deputy head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, at the Rabaa Mosque on Tuesday night.

"Our presence here will with time make Egyptians realise the real revolution is here … we will stand peacefully until we reach a point where all the world supports our democratic process over military rule."

His colleague, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad, described the government and the cabinet as illegitimate and warned there would be more protests, bigger marches and intensified civil unrest in the coming weeks as the fight to "restore democracy" continued.

"The president [Dr Mursi] was voted in by half the country – the fact that half the county didn't want him does not give them the right to brush up to the military and use the military's might to execute that coup."

Acknowledging that the government had lost significant support over the last year, El-Haddad said: "that is why it would have been much wiser for the Opposition to go into parliamentary elections because they would have outdone us … and at least then they would have had constitutional legitimacy."

The army said it was carrying out the will of the people when it forced Dr Mursi from office after millions took to the streets to demand his resignation as the one-year anniversary of his election neared.

Adli Mansour, the judge installed by the army as interim president, swore in the 33 mainly liberal and technocrat ministers on Tuesday – they are now faced with the enormous task of trying to stabilise an economy shattered by the turmoil that has plagued Egypt since the January 25, 2011 revolution.

Armed forces chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took the post of first deputy to interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, a liberal economist who is charged with implementing the so-called road map to restore civilian rule.

That road map requires a new constitution to be written within weeks and put to a referendum, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.

Ballot-weary Egyptians, who have already endured six elections and constitutional referendums in the two-and-a-half years since a popular uprising put an end to the nearly 30-year reign of president Hosni Mubarak, will have no choice but to spend even more time queuing to vote in the coming months.

Mr Mursi is being held by the military at an undisclosed location and has not been seen since his forced departure from the presidency on July 3. The United States, along with Germany and other EU powers, have called for his immediate release.

EU representative Catherine Ashton is expected to visit Egypt on Wednesday to urge Egypt to "return as rapidly as possible to its democratic transition".

She will meet interim President Mansour, interim Prime Minister Beblawy and will hold talks with other political forces and representatives of civil society.

Her visit follows that of US deputy secretary of state, William Burns, who was criticised by both the pro-revolution forces and by the Muslim Brotherhood for the US stance on the overthrow of Mr Mursi.

Although he has yet to be charged with a crime, Egypt's prosecutors say Dr Mursi, along with other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, are being investigated over complaints of inciting violence, spying and ruining Egypt's economy.

Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front – a coalition of 11 opposition parties – said the 12 months of Mr Mursi's rule had been disastrous for Egypt.

"Bread, freedom and social justice were the calls of the revolution, there were no calls for the establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt – that was not even part of the dialogue," Mr Dawoud said, alluding to the Islamist leanings of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

Describing the June 30 protests that led up to Dr Mursi's downfall as "an accumulation of anger" at the government's failures, he said "90 million people's lives are at stake and the government did nothing to help them."

"There are 40 per cent of people living below the poverty line, nearly 40 per cent are illiterate – I wanted a government who worked on these problems, not a government who is just interested in installing Muslim Brotherhood people in key positions."

Those who supported the overthrow of Dr Mursi say they now just want to get on with life, and leave the turmoil of the previous government behind them.

"We have so many problems, so many challenges," said 20-year-old engineering student Sallie, who did not want her last name used, as she shopped in downtown Cairo.

"We need experts and professionals who can reform Egypt and bring it into the 21st century."

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