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Updated: July 10, 2013 08:34 IST

Beblawi to be Egypt interim PM

Atul Aneja
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Egyptian soldiers stand guard around the Republican Guard building in Nasser City, Cairo, on Monday.
AP Egyptian soldiers stand guard around the Republican Guard building in Nasser City, Cairo, on Monday.

Interim President proposes changes to Constitution, referendum and elections

Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour has appointed liberal economist Hazem el-Beblawi as Prime Minister and Nobel-laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as Deputy President with responsibility for foreign affairs.

Mr. Beblawi was Finance Minister from July to November 2011 under army rule. He was formerly a senior official at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and before that an economics professor at the University of Alexandria in Egypt.

On the defensive after Monday morning’s carnage that killed 51 people, Mr. Mansour had earlier unveiled a roadmap for the country’s political transition.

In a decree late on Monday, Mr. Mansour — appointed after last Wednesday’s coup that toppled President Mohamed Morsy — declared that changes would be made to the Constitution, which would be put to referendum, paving the way for parliamentary elections early next year.

The order set specific timelines for completing the transition: a panel would be formed within a fortnight to amend the Constitution and within four months a referendum would be held to approve the changes. Parliamentary elections would take place in early 2014, followed by presidential polls once the new Parliament convened.

Sensitive time

The decree came at a sensitive time — after a barrage of gunfire killed more than 50 people, stunning Egyptians across the sharply defined political divide. Even supporters of the coup that toppled Mr. Morsy — including Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei — have condemned the violence. The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayeb — another backer of a post-Morsy transition — also expressed his revulsion. In a statement broadcast by state TV, Imam El-Tayeb exhorted “those in power to open an urgent investigation into the incident”.

Showing awareness that Egypt was truly on edge after Monday morning’s bloodbath, Mr. Mansour prefaced his decree with “deep regret” over the killings. He said a judicial committee had been formed to investigate the events.

But the words of comfort from the officialdom were unlikely to soothe Mr. Morsy’s supporters, who have thronged Rabba Al-Adaweya Square in Nasr city for over a week.

Within hours of the tragedy, grief had turned into defiance at the square. The steady accumulation of crowds overnight seemed to have steeled the resolve among Morsy supporters to hold on for the long haul. “There is no turning back now. We are here till our President is reinstated in office,” says Mona Sherbini, a young activist at the square.

The increasing tensions in the standoff between Morsy supporters and the military became evident in a statement by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) — the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The FJP issued an unambiguous call on Monday for “an uprising by the great people of Egypt against those trying to steal their revolution with tanks”. The party warned that Egypt could descend into a Syria-like civil war.

Military version

The emotive resonance of the Brotherhood’s narrative seems to have drowned out the military’s version of the events that led to the carnage outside the officers club of the Republican Guards headquarters, where Mr. Morsy is being supposedly held. At a late evening presser on Monday, Army Spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali said the situation had not been peaceful as stated by the pro-Morsy camp. Armed with supporting video footage, he asserted that gunmen tried to cut through the barbed wire surrounding the compound — the ingress coordinated by sniper fire from the rooftops.

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