Egypt’s New Premier Shunned as One Killed in Fresh Violence

Egypt Appoints Ganzouri as Prime Minister
Tens of thousands of protesters occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand that Egypt’s generals cede power even after they appointed former Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri to form a new government. Photographer: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

One person died in clashes with police in Cairo as protesters rejected the military’s appointment of new Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri and demanded the generals cede power.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling army council, said he gave el-Ganzouri “full prerogatives,” state-run television reported yesterday. Hundreds spilled over from Tahrir Square and started a sit-in in front of the nearby Cabinet building to protest el-Ganzouri’s appointment. One person died in clashes with police today at the site, state-run Nile News reported.

The council said parliamentary elections scheduled to start Nov. 28 won’t be postponed and that it will stay in power until a presidential poll in June. Voting will take place over two days instead of one during each round, the Cabinet said on its Facebook page. In Cairo’s Abassiya Square, a one-day counter-protest backing the military grew into thousands after prayers on Friday.

“It’s a controversial appointment because it didn’t unite people, it divided them,” said Wael Ziada, Cairo-based head of research at EFG-Hermes Holding SAE. “Some protesters don’t believe he is the right figure to take independent decisions in the coming period. The best way forward is to carry on with peaceful elections and for the military council to hand over power to a national rescue government immediately afterward.”

Interim Government

The army council, which took over after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February, is seeking to form an interim government in an attempt to defuse unrest that erupted on Nov. 19 and has left at least 38 people dead, according to the Health Ministry. The violence, which began in Cairo and cities including Alexandria, threatens to derail the elections and undermine attempts to secure financing for an economy still struggling to recover from this year’s revolt.

“Kamal el-Ganzouri is not good because he is a remnant of the old regime,” said Saeed Abu el Ela, 48, a lawyer who joined the Tahrir Square protest. “They should have picked someone new so the people would accept him. My problem is that he’s from the old regime and he’s old.”

El-Ganzouri, 78, said that while he expects a new government to be sworn in within three days, it’s unlikely that will happen before parliamentary elections begin. Speaking live on state television yesterday, he said he wouldn’t have accepted the role of prime minister had he believed the military council wanted to stay in power. He has been given more powers than any previous government, he said.

Ganzouri Meeting

El-Ganzouri met today with representatives of about a dozen groups of protesters in Tahrir and elsewhere. The premier-designate proposed forming an advisory committee that would include presidential hopefuls Mohamed ElBaradei and Abdel Moneim Abu el-Fotouh to work with his government, Osama Farag, general coordinator of the Union of Revolutionary Youth, told reporters after the meeting.

Egypt’s prime minister-designate also accepted a list of recommendations for ministerial posts in the government. He said he would retain five or six ministers from the outgoing government of Essam Sharaf.

“The question is, what power do these advisers have and what vision do they have for Egypt?” said Ahmed Farouk, a physicist attending the protests in Tahrir Square. “It is impossible for these advisors to have full power as long as the field marshal and the military council are running the country. They should form a coalition government that includes all political groups.”

Salvation Government

Protesters staging a sit-in outside the Cabinet office said they were nominating presidential hopefuls ElBaradei, Abdel Abu el-Fotouh and Hamdine Sabahi to form a national salvation government, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

“The military council and the remnants of the old regime want to remain the executive power and any other figure from Tahrir will be there merely to advise them,” said Nermin Nizar, a 40-year-old interpreter in Tahrir. “The solution is that they should respond to the will of the people and hand over power to a presidential council. Nothing else will defuse the situation.”

El-Ganzouri held several high-profile positions in 17 years of service under Mubarak, starting with his appointment as the minister of planning in 1982. His service ended after a three-year term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999. He is an economist with a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

‘Many Problems’

“He was the one who oversaw the privatization of companies and fired workers,” said Fatma Ramadan, 45, an activist at the Tahrir protest. “He has many problems.”

Standard & Poor’s cut Egypt’s credit rating on Nov. 24, while the government raised less than half of its target sum at an auction of six-month and one-year Treasury bills, and was forced to pay record yields above 14 percent on both securities. The central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates last week for the first time since 2008 to stem flight from the pound.

Egypt’s five-year credit default risk rose to the highest since March 2009 yesterday, gaining eight basis points, or 0.08 percentage point, to 563, according to data provider CMA. That compares with 292 for Tunisia, the Arab country whose uprising also ousted its president in January.

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