(The Washington Post)Egypt’s interim president on Tuesday appointed a prime minister and vice president, moves designed to lend an air of normalcy to the country even as indications mounted that the president is little more than a civilian face for military rule.
The appointments came hours after the interim president, Adly Mansour, outlined a path to quick elections and a return to democracy after the coup last week that overthrew Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
Clashes that erupted between the Egyptian army and Islamists protesting the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi claimed over 50 lives in Cairo. Increased violence threatens to further divide the country.
Hundreds of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi gathered outside the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo on Sunday calling for the release of the former president.
The plan presented by Mansour drew immediate condemnation from Morsi’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood, but it also elicited a lukewarm response from key players in the loose alliance of politicians and activists who had lobbied for Morsi’s ouster.
One group that had been central to the anti-Morsi movement said it had not been consulted on Mansour’s plan, which provides for few independent checks on the president’s power until a constitutional referendum and elections that are due within six months.
Egypt’s military insists that Morsi’s dismissal was not a coup and that civilians are firmly in charge. But events of the past week suggest that Mansour — who was a little-known judge before he was thrust into the presidency — remains subservient to the nation’s powerful generals.
Mansour did not make any public appearances to announce his moves, communicating instead through written statements and leaks to the news media.
The commander of Egypt’s armed forces, however, did speak. In a recorded statement broadcast Tuesday on Egyptian television, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi told the nation that the new president’s declaration provided “more than enough assurance” that the country was moving in the right direction.
The road map outlined a “specific timetable for every step of the rebuilding of the constitution in a way that will guarantee and achieve the will of the people,” Sissi said. “And that means the landmarks of the path are determined and clear.”
The Obama administration has pressed Egypt’s generals to set a clear course for returning to democracy and has urged them to avoid arbitrary arrests or other acts of reprisal against the Brotherhood, an Islamist group that the military has long sought to oppress.
But nearly a week after Morsi’s ouster, he and a group of top aides remain cut off from the world, having been effectively detained without charge. Prosecutors have issued arrest warrants against hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members. Two Islamist television channels thrown off the air in the minutes after Morsi’s ouster remained dark Tuesday.
The Brotherhood, meanwhile, has accused the military of carrying out “a massacre” on Monday, when Egyptian security forces opened fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators, killing at least 51 people. The military has said that it was attacked first, a charge that the Brotherhood denies.
Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, on Tuesday made the rounds on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of lawmakers are calling for a suspension of Washington’s $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt, most of which goes to the country’s military.