Egypt’s Ruling Military Draws Ire After Cairo Clashes

Egypt Clashes Kill 9; Presidential Hopefuls Suspend Campaign
An Egyptian man uses a crate as a shield while holding a knife during clashes with anti-military protesters in the Abbassiya district of Cairo on May 2, 2012. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/GettyImages

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s ruling military sought to deflect mounting criticism of its stewardship of the country after deadly clashes heightened tensions ahead of a presidential vote less than three weeks away.

The fighting yesterday near the Defense Ministry in Cairo between protesters and unknown assailants left at least seven dead and 64 wounded, according to Health Ministry spokesman Badawi Mohamed. Some candidates temporarily suspended their campaigns.

Criticism of the generals followed quickly, largely for the delayed response to the violence, and prompted armed forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sami Enan to complain that the military had become a “hanger” for blame. Military rulers have repeatedly warned that “hidden hands” were behind much of the unrest following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

“We will never allow for a confrontation or violence with protesters,” the state-run al-Ahram quoted Enan as saying after a meeting with political groups yesterday.

During the meeting, which was boycotted by several leading political factions as a protest over the day’s violence, Anan also said the military is considering the possibility of handing over power on May 24 if a clear winner emerges from the first round of elections. The first round of the vote is slated to be held on May 23-24.

U.S. Senator John Kerry, who met Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s military ruler, yesterday, told reporters today that he believed the military “wants to go back to the barracks” and leave politics to the politicians.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was among those that boycotted yesterday’s meeting, said the military was to blame for the violence.

“We cannot sit with them while innocent blood is spilled a few meters away from the place of the meeting, while SCAF does not do its duty to protect peaceful protests,” Essam el-Erian, the deputy head of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, said in a statement on the party’s website today, referring to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces by its acronym.

The cost of protecting government debt against default for five years has fallen 34 basis points this year to 606 basis points yesterday, according to CMA, which is owned by CME Group Inc. and compiles data from the privately-negotiated market.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden in Dubai at barden@bloomberg.net