Egypt pushes transition, naming prime minister
CAIRO – Egypt’s military-backed interim leader named a new prime minister and won $8 billion in promises of aid from wealthy Arab allies in the Gulf on Tuesday in moves aimed at stabilizing a political transition less than a week after the army deposed the Islamist president.
The armed forces warned political factions that “maneuvering” must not hold up its ambitious fast-track timetable for new elections next year. The sharp message underlined how strongly the military is shepherding the process, even as liberal reform movements that backed its removal of Mohammed Morsi complained that now they are not being consulted in decision-making.
The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the transition plan, vowing to continue its street protests until ousted Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, is returned to power.
The appointment of economist Hazem el-Beblawi as prime minister, along with the setting of the accelerated timetable, underlined the military’s determination to push ahead in the face of Islamist opposition and outrage over the killing of more than 50 Morsi supporters on Monday.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided a welcome boost for the new leadership. The two countries, both opponents of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, celebrated his ouster by showering the cash-strapped Egyptian government with promises of $8 billion in grants, loans and badly needed gas and oil.
In doing so, they are effectively stepping in for Morsi’s Gulf patron, Qatar, a close ally of the Brotherhood that gave his government several billion in aid. During Morsi’s year in office as Egypt’s first freely elected president, he and his officials toured multiple countries seeking cash to prop up rapidly draining foreign currency reserves and plug mounting deficits – at times getting a cold shoulder.
The developments underlined the pressures on the new leadership even with the country still in turmoil after what Morsi’s supporters have called a coup against democracy.
The military faces calls, from the U.S. and Western allies in particular, to show that civilians are in charge and Egypt is on a path toward a democratically based leadership. The nascent government will soon face demands that it tackle economic woes that mounted under Morsi, including fuel shortages, electricity cutoffs and inflation.