Egypt swears in new Cabinet that excludes Islamists

Egypt’s interim president on Tuesday swore-in a new Cabinet stocked with liberals, women, secularists and Christians — but no Islamists — and appears to give greater powers to the military chief who toppled the country’s first democratically elected president two weeks ago.

The new government was sworn in hours after clashes between police and ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters in Cairo had left seven dead and more than 200 wounded. The swearing-in and the violence occurred during a visit by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Cairo since Mr. Morsi’s ouster.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi’s 33-member Cabinet took the oath in front of interim President Adly Mansour. The Cabinet includes three Christians and three women, one of whom is Christian.

Mr. Mansour, chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, was appointed interim president when Mr. Morsi was ousted by the military July 3 after four days of massive protests against the Islamist president.

Army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who was instrumental in Mr. Morsi’s ouster, retained the post of defense minister and was given the duties of first deputy prime minister.

The interim government will oversee the implementation of a transition plan announced last week by Mr. Mansour that includes the formation of committees to amend the Islamist-drafted constitution, passed while Mr. Morsi was in office, and elections for a new parliament and president early next year.

The new Cabinet reflects the deep polarization in Egyptian society that has been exacerbated over the past two weeks.

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman rejected the new government as “illegitimate.”

“We don’t recognize it. It’s a government without legitimacy,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said in a phone interview.

The ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, which had backed the overthrow of Mr. Morsi, said the interim government was making the same mistakes as the previous one. This “leads to a totally biased government,” it said in a statement.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the Obama administration is “very concerned about the dangerous polarization on all sides.”

“So our goal in getting Egypt back toward this inclusive democratic transition is to reduce the polarization. And so that’s our main policy dilemma,” he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called for reconciliation.

“We made clear again that we don’t favor groups here or individuals or parties, we favor a process that is peaceful and that has as its foundation reconciliation rather than polarization,” he said.

Mr. Mansour’s spokesman had earlier said the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, would be offered spots in the new Cabinet.

Mr. El-Haddad said no such offer was made, but it would have been rejected had it been.

Mr. Mansour is expected to soon announce plans for reconciliation talks.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which describes Mr. Morsi’s ouster as a military coup and has been demanding his reinstatement at protests in Cairo and other parts of Egypt for almost two weeks, has rejected talk of reconciliation.

“It is ironic to call for reconciliation talks without sending positive signals to those whom they want to invite to the table,” Mr. El-Haddad said. “At the moment they are sending live bullets in our direction. That is hardly an invitation to reconciliation.”

The violence in Cairo was the worst since troops killed 51 supporters of Mr. Morsi on July 8. The Muslim Brotherhood said police used birdshot and live ammunition against the protesters.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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