Egypt’s Islamist president-elect plans to name a woman and a Christian among his deputies, as he seeks to form an administration to heal the rifts that polarized the country after last year’s revolt.
Mohamed Mursi, who won a presidential runoff vote on June 24, will appoint as many as five vice presidents “including a Copt, a woman and a member of the youth” activists, his spokesman, Yasser Ali, said by phone today.
The Muslim Brotherhood candidate, a U.S.-trained engineer, narrowly defeated Ahmed Shafik, who served as premier under ousted President Hosni Mubarak. He now faces the challenge of reviving an economy that has struggled to recover amid political tensions, and appeasing a population weary of the collapse in security since Mubarak’s fall in February last year.
Mursi, 60, is holding talks today with youth groups and party leaders, and has met with members of the Christian minority and the families of those killed in the uprising. He is seeking to broaden support before a handover of power by the ruling generals, due by June 30.
The man elected as Egypt’s first civilian president faces likely opposition from some political groups that cast the presidential election as a battle between political Islam and secularism, said Yasser el-Shimy, Mideast analyst for the International Crisis Group consultancy.
Groups such as the Free Egyptians and the Tagammu are “dead-set against helping a Muslim Brotherhood president succeed,” el-Shimy, a former diplomat, said by phone, adding that it could affect his chances of pulling together a national unity government.
“Not only does he have to worry about those secular parties, but he also has to worry about a rather hostile media and a rather uncooperative military,” he said. “He may also have to worry about a security establishment that has an interest in seeing him fail. Unfortunately, in the next few months, we’re going to see a game of spoilers from many different actors.”
Egyptian newspapers have printed the names of several potential deputies and prime ministers, including Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, and Hazem el-Beblawi, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister. Ali said Mursi has yet to decide on the presidential team or the government, and said the names being discussed in the media were “speculation.”
Mursi will take office with his authority curtailed after the ruling generals issued constitutional addendums hours after the polls closed on June 17 that gave them broader powers at the expense of the presidency.
The decrees, coming after the constitutional court on June 14 ordered the Islamist-dominated parliament dissolved, sparked fears the military council wasn’t as committed to the transition to democracy as it had claimed.
“Mursi’s victory does not mean that democracy has triumphed in Egypt,” Marina Ottaway, a senior associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, wrote in a June 25 note. “This is just one episode in a battle for change that will unfold for years and will undeniably continue to be difficult.”
The military suffered a setback yesterday when the Supreme Administrative Court, traditionally more independent than other courts in Egypt, overturned a decree by the justice minister awarding the military the right to arrest civilians.
While Mursi has struck a more conciliatory tone with the military, repeatedly praising them and the security forces as pillars of Egypt, the Brotherhood has kept on the pressure.
The group said today it would participate in another mass rally on June 29 for “handing over power.” It has continued a rolling protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for more than a week to pressure the ruling generals to give back the powers they took from the presidency and to reinstitute the parliament.
The legislature’s fate remains uncertain as the court adjourned until July 9 a hearing in a case challenging Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi’s right to disband the legislature. Preserving the legislature, dominated by the Brotherhood and other Islamists, would bolster Mursi’s position.
The delay also left it unclear where the president-elect will take the oath of office. Mursi’s campaign has said he wants to swear the oath in the parliament, as his predecessors have done, rather than before the court that ordered the parliament’s dissolution.
Ali said a decision on the venue will be announced tomorrow, though a date for the inauguration has yet to be set.
Looking to distance himself from his predecessor, Mursi has tried to discourage the sort of cult of personality that was endemic under Mubarak. He asked that money that would be spent on ads congratulating him be routed to other causes and for his picture not be put up in government offices and buildings, the official Middle East News Agency reported yesterday.
Television footage of Mursi’s meeting with the families of casualties from the uprising showed him kissing the foreheads of some people and pledging to bring to justice those who had participated in the killings.
Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the attacks on protesters, though six top security officials were acquitted in the June 2 ruling. Activists and the Brotherhood saw the acquittals as opening the door for Mubarak’s verdict to be overturned on appeal.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org