The day after the deadliest clash in Egypt in recent years, the streets of Cairo and across the country were unexpectedly calm Tuesday. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood licked their wounds and buried their dead, while Adly Mansour, the military-appointed interim president, plunged ahead by naming a veteran economist as his prime minister and setting a timetable for elections in the next six months.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who delighted at seeing the removal of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi, pledged $8-billion in donations and interest-free loans to a desperate Egypt, while an anxious population just held its breath, wondering what might come next.
Hazem el-Bablawi, Mr. Mansour’s choice for prime minister, headed the Finance Ministry during part of the transitional period after the 2011 removal of Hosni Mubarak. As a founder of the Social Democratic Party, he has support among left-wing protesters, and he has fans in the military. Surprisingly, his appointment also was supported by the Nour Party, the only Islamist party to have supported the military’s ouster of Mr. Morsi last week.
This extremely conservative religious party had vetoed the appointment of two other people Mr. Mansour wanted to appoint because they were members of a political party and not the neutral kind of technocrat, as the Nour party said was needed. And though it announced Monday it was withdrawing from the talks on appointing an interim government, the party said Tuesday it would accept the president’s latest choice.
“We do not object to Dr. Hazem. He is an important economic figure,” Nour party leader Younes Makhyoun told Reuters on Tuesday. However, he added: “He has no party affiliations that I am aware of.” Mr. Bablawi’s history with the Social Democrats may yet trip up his appointment.
The new prime minister told Hayat television that he would not appoint a technocratic cabinet, but preferred one that is politically balanced and competent. Arguably, it will be “the most important government in Egypt’s history,” he said.
The key ministers of defence, interior and foreign affairs, inherited from the Morsi regime, will remain in their posts.
Mr. Mansour also issued a constitutional decree that provided a timetable for amending the country’s constitution and holding national elections – all within six months.
It calls for the appointment of a 10-person committee of legal experts to amend the constitution within a month. A process for including all political points of view in approving the amendments is left a little vague, as is the timing of a referendum where the people will vote on the new document.
If the constitution is passed by the people, parliamentary elections would be called within two weeks, and a presidential election called within a week of parliament convening, according to the decree.
A previous schedule for such matters following Mr. Mubarak’s removal from office in 2011 was never kept, and this one already has lots of critics.
The Nour party said it objected to the constitutional amendments being prepared by an unelected committee, while leftist opposition groups denounced the decree’s adoption of some religious-leaning language.
Muslim Brotherhood officials said they would never be part of the “all-inclusive process” that Mr. Mansour hopes to put in place
Senior Brotherhood figure Essam El-Erian condemned the decree as having been “issued after midnight by a person appointed by the putschists, usurping the legislative power from a council elected by the people, and bringing the country back to stage zero.”
Determined to flex its political muscle, the Brotherhood called for a grand rally Tuesday night at the Rabaa mosque not far from the Presidential Guard compound where Mr. Morsi is believed to be held and outside which 50 Morsi supporters were killed early Monday morning.
The rally at Rabaa, though large and emotional, was oddly tranquil. The 10,000 or so people who conducted a symbolic funeral of their dead were not baying for blood.
Chants that described the police as “thugs” and the head of the military as a “symbol of shame” were interspersed with refrains of “peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.”
The movement is wincing from a crackdown by the authorities that resembles that carried out by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s, its members say. In addition to some 200 leading Brotherhood figures arrested or being sought since last week, another 650 were arrested Monday after the clashes outside the Presidential Guard facility.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters accounted for 50 of the 51 people killed when military forces opened fire on their protest, but military officials insist the protesters fired first.