By Maggie Michael
and Lee Keath
CAIRO: Egypt’s interim president named an economist as prime minister Tuesday, ending days of deadlock as the head of the military pressured political factions to speed along the process, warning them that “maneuvering” must not hold up the transition toward new elections after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.
The appointment of Hazem el-Beblawi, along with the setting of a swift timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections early next year, underlined the military-backed leadership’s determination to push ahead with their transition plans in the face of Islamist protests demanding the reinstatement of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.
The new leadership got a boost Tuesday from Arab allies in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both opponents of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, celebrated his ouster by showering the cash-strapped Egyptian government with promises of $8 billion worth of cash 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, 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 multiple 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 United States and Western allies in particular, to show that civilians are in charge and Egypt is on a path toward a new democratically based leadership. The nascent government will soon face demands it tackle economic woes that mounted during Morsi’s year in office, including fuel shortages, electricity cut-offs and inflation.
And there are signs of discontent over the transition plan among those participating in the military-backed political process.
The secular, revolutionary youth movement Tamarod, which organized last week’s massive protests against Morsi, criticized the transition plan Tuesday, in part because it gives too much power to the interim president, Adly Mansour. An Islamist party was unhappy that appointed panels — not elected ones — will amend the constitution.
At the same time, the country is deeply polarized, raising the threat of violence, particularly after more than 50 Morsi supporters were killed by security forces in clashes early Monday. The Brotherhood and Islamist allies say they are under siege by a crackdown from the military that has jailed five of their top leaders and shut down their media outlets.
The Brotherhood on Tuesday rejected the transition plan, as tens of thousands of its supporters massed for another day in a rally outside a Cairo mosque where they have vowed to stay until Morsi is restored. The crowds waved signs of the ousted leader and brought in coffins draped with Egyptian flags representing the slain protesters.
“This new declaration affirms that those who carried out the coup, the dictator generals, don’t respect the will of the people,” the Brotherhood said of the transition timetable in a statement. “These are all rejected and void measures.”
Still, there was not the huge nationwide turnout Brotherhood leaders had called for in the wake of the killings. Also, for the first time since even before the June 30 protests began, Cairo’s Tahrir Square — where Morsi’s opponents were centered — was largely without crowds.
That could in part reflect that people were preparing for the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan today, when Muslims begin 30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset.