Transitional Egyptian President Adly Mansour, named by the Egyptian military to lead the country after it ousted Mohammed Morsi from office, announced several key appointments Sunday, all of whom were members of the military or supporters of a nation guided by the armed forces.
The development raised questions about whether Mansour’s government would, as promised, represent a broad spectrum of Egypt’s political factions or become simply a vehicle for control by the military, which had until Morsi’s election last year led the nation either directly or through a retired military officer for six decades.
Of the six new appointees announced by Mansour, three were from the military. The others were known for having never spoken out against the armed forces or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces when it was in control of the government for 18 months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Meanwhile, prominent supporters of Morsi remain in military custody, while members of the so-called youth movements that were instrumental in organizing the protests that led to Mubarak’s fall two and a half years ago said they have not been consulted in the formation of Mansour’s government.
There were also fresh rumors about what role Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who leads a large political bloc that had opposed Morsi, would have in the new government. ElBaradei’s appointment as prime minister was opposed by the conservative religious Nour party; there were reports he might now be named vice president as early as Monday. If that appointment takes place, he would be the first person named to the government who had openly criticized military rule.
On Sunday, for the eighth straight day, Cairo was again the scene of massive demonstrations. Tens of thousands rallied in iconic Tahrir Square and in front of the Ministry of Defense in support of the military’s toppling of Morsi last Wednesday, with some chanting slogans slamming the United States for its perceived backing of Morsi. Morsi backers held large counter protests, primarily in Cairo’s eastern Rabaa district, calling for Morsi’s reinstatement.
There were no reports of violence in Cairo, but the military and Islamists clashed again in the restive Sinai, near the border with Israel, and there were signs of sectarian tensions as a Muslim man killed four Coptic Christians in the southern resort town of Luxor. On Friday, at least 30 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in pitched battles between pro- and anti-Morsi crowds.
Mansour’s appointments included Maj. Gen. Abdel Moemen Fouda Kabeer as chief of staff of the army, Maj. General Mohammed Ahmed Farid Thami Aleoran to head the country’s intelligence agency, and Maj. Gen. Mohamed Raafat Abdel Wahed Shehata to head the country’s security services.
Civilians named to government positions were Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud Meslemany, a former television newscaster who will be Mansour’s media adviser, Ali Awad Mohammed Saleh, a lawyer who will advise Mansour on constitutional affairs, and Sekina Fouad, who will be a presidential adviser for women’s affairs. Fouad was the only woman among 14 people who sat on the stage when Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, the minister of defense and head of the military, announced that Morsi had been removed from office.
That group included Islamic leaders, the Coptic Christian pope and members of Tamarod, a newly formed youth opposition group that claimed it had collected 22 million signatures on a petition demanding Morsi’s resignation and whose leaders also supported the military’s intervention.
A Tamarod spokeswoman said the group had met with the miliary leadership and expected to be represented in the Mansour government.
“The desire to meet was mutual between us and the military to protect the popular will,” said Eman El Mahdy, 28. “We are not seeking power. We only want to monitor against corruption and stability.”
But activists opposed to any kind of military rule said they were never contacted by the military leading up to Morsi’s ouster and have not been contact in the days since.
“They wouldn’t dare,” said Ahmed Maher, head of the April 6 Youth Movement and a leader of the demonstrations that toppled Mubarak who also favored Morsi’s stepping down. The military “should have then left,” he said.
On Saturday, ElBaradei, a once fierce critic of the military’s Supreme Council, was expected to be named prime minister. But that appointment never came, apparently after objections from conservative Islamist who’d also backed the military.
ElBaradei had been scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday but canceled at the last minute because of “laryngitis and a fever,” he told the network. But David Gregory, the program’s host, said that during a phone call explaining why he would not appear, ElBaradei had told him he expected the appointment to be made.
“He also said, his words, ‘The country is falling apart,’ ” Gregory said.
Maher said he would like to see ElBaradei represent the views of the opposition.
The exclusion of key groups and leaders from the government could pose a problem for Obama administration, which has avoided using the words “military coup” in describing what has taken place and has called for the new government to chart an inclusive path.
“The only solution to the current impasse is for all parties to work together peacefully to address the many legitimate concerns and needs of the people and to ensure Egypt has a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the millions of Egyptians who have taken to the streets to demand a better future,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in his latest statement. “Lasting stability in Egypt will only be achieved through a transparent and inclusive democratic process with participation from all sides and all political parties.”
Many Egyptians have been objected to calling Morsi’s ouster a military coup, saying it was a necessary measure to save the nation from three more years of Morsi’s incompetence. The first democratically elected leader in Egypt’s history, Morsi angered many for naming members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the secret organization through which he ascended to the presidency, to several key posts. He also arrested critics for insulting him, repeatedly said he was unwilling to work with opponents and presided over a failing economy.
But Morsi’s supporters freely use the term. In an appearance on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on Sunday, Amr Darrag, Morsi’s minister of planning and international cooperation, acknowledged complaints about Morsi’s competence. But, he asked, “Does this justify a coup?”
McClatchy special correspondent Amina Ismail contributed to this report.
By Nancy A. Youssef
McClatchy Foreign Staff