Egypt’s Interim Government Seeks Quick Elections

By: New York Times Email
By: New York Times Email

CARIO (New York Times)-Seeking to reassure Egyptians and the world about its intention to return to civilian democracy, the military-led interim government on Tuesday laid out a brisk timetable to overhaul Egypt’s suspended Constitution, elect a new Parliament and choose a new president, all in the space of about six months.

The release of the new timetable, issued in the name of the interim president, Adli Mansour, appeared intended to show steps toward civilian democracy after the military’s mass shooting of more than 50 Islamist protesters on Monday raised new doubts about the democratic promises of the generals who ousted former President Mohamed Morsi last week. Under United States law, if Washington officials deem the generals’ takeover to be a “coup” or decides that Cairo is moving away from democracy, then the Egyptian military stands to lose about $1.3 billion a year in American aid.

Previous schedules for Egypt’s political transition, however, have often gone unmet, especially under the roughly 18 months of military rule that ended last summer.

Mr. Mansour continued to struggle to assemble an interim cabinet after a handful of candidates for prime minister dropped out or fell away. Mr. Mansour was preparing to swear in Mohamed ElBaradei, the Noble-prize winning former diplomat and prominent liberal, on Sunday when the one major Islamist party that has supported Mr. Morsi’s ouster refused to accept Mr. ElBaradei.

On Tuesday, Mr. Mansour was reported to be moving to name Samir Radwan, a former finance minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Al Nour, the ultraconservative Islamist party supporting Mr. Morsi’s ouster, signaled that it could accept Mr. Radwan, deeming him a “technocrat” outside Egypt’s recent political battles.

Mr. Mansour, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court who was tapped by the generals as interim president, has not spoken publicly since he was sworn in. Just before midnight Monday, he issued a “constitutional declaration” laying out a transitional road map that called for the immediate formation of a 10-person committee to revise the charter approved in December. The panel would be composed of six judges chosen by three top courts — two from each — along with four Egyptian law professors. It was unclear who would pick the four professors.

The committee is expected to complete its revisions in about a month and then pass them to a larger committee of 50 people representing various government institutions, syndicates and social groups as well as other prominent figures. Some representatives would be selected by their institutions and the others chosen by Mr. Mansour and his soon-to-be-named cabinet. The military and the police would both pick representatives.

If approved by the larger committee, the revisions would move to a public referendum after about three months, followed in about two more weeks by parliamentary elections. Mr. Mansour’s plan called for presidential elections about three months after ratification of the new charter.

Neither Mr. Monsour nor the military commander who named him, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, have said anything about how they plan to include Mr. Morsi’s legions of Islamist supporters in the political process. Millions oppose his ouster as illegitimate and undemocratic.

Mr. Morsi’s party, formed by the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, won nearly half the seats in the last parliamentary election, and more conservative Islamist groups known as Salafis won nearly a quarter more.

Mr. Morsi, who is now in military detention without charges at an undisclosed location, was elected with a little more than 51 percent of the vote more than a year ago. All acknowledged that his popularity has slipped, and millions marched in the streets on the anniversary of Mr. Morsi’s inauguration to call for his removal.

But he still has millions of ardent supporters and since his ouster tens of thousands have demonstrated in the streets to call for his reinstatement.

The military-led government has issued arrest warrants for hundreds of top Brotherhood leaders and jailed some of them. It has shut down the Brotherhood’s satellite television network and two other Islamist channels.

Calling the forced ouster of an elected president by a small group of generals a “coup,” the Brotherhood has vowed to oppose the new military-led government as a violation of democratic principles.

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