Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei took over as Egypt’s interim prime minister a day after 36 people were killed in clashes involving Islamist supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi and his opponents.
“Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei has accepted the offer by Interim President Adly Mansour to form the Cabinet,” read an announcement on ElBaradei’s Facebook page.
ElBaradei, a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, emerged as one of the leaders of the movement against President Hosni Mubarak during Egypt’s 2011 uprising and later became of Mursi’s main opponents.
He was among opposition and religious figures who flanked Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi when he announced Mursi’s ouster three days ago, along with the convening of a civilian government, the suspension of the Islamist-drafted constitution and the holding of early elections.
Television pictures tonight showed thousands of Mursi supporters rallying again in Cairo’s Nasr City district to protest his removal from power. Troops were deployed in the capital today to forestall new violence between pro- and anti-Mursi factions, after yesterday’s street battles across Egypt left more than 1,000 people wounded, according to the country’s ambulance service. Five of the dead were policemen, the Interior Ministry said.
ElBaradei will be an asset as the military-backed interim government seeks credibility abroad because he “is comfortable working on the international stage,” according to Emad Mostaque, a London-based strategist at Noah Capital Markets EMEA Ltd.
His appointment is “good for foreign investment that Egypt desperately needs to fill its financing gap, especially if we see strikes and rising violence denting tourism,” Mostaque said in an e-mail. He said it’s “not a good sign for reconciliation, given the level of antipathy between him and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
ElBaradei, 71, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for “efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy, for peaceful purposes, is used in the safest possible way.”
He stepped out of his role as chief of the United Nations atomic energy agency in the months leading up to the 2003 Iraq War in order to urge Mubarak to open up his government after 30 years in power.
ElBaradei’s appointment is a “victory for the revolution,” Mohamed Adel, a member of the April 6 youth movement’s political bureau, said in an e-mailed statement. The new interim premier will have to “pay attention first to the issues of democracy and economic conditions,” Adel said.
The choice may only rankle Islamist groups that say Mursi’s ouster disenfranchised them.
“Whoever made this decision didn’t take into consideration the difficult situation Egypt is going through,” Bassam Al Zarqa, a deputy leader of the Salafist Nour Party, told privately owned Al Hayat television. A “non-biased economic figure should have been selected instead.”
Nabil Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the U.S., will be the foreign minister in the new government, Al Jazeera television reported, citing unnamed officials in the interim president’s office.
Mansour met today with the defense minister and Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who oversees the police, following yesterday’s clashes, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Skirmishes broke out in Cairo, the port city of Alexandria and the Sinai peninsula.
The military forced Mursi out July 3 after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets for four days. Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president, he’d been in power for one year. Critics accused him of betraying the 2011 revolution by grabbing power for his Islamist backers and ignoring the nation’s economic plight and political rifts.
The Cairo court trying Mubarak on charges of involvement in killing protesters in the 2011 uprising adjourned the case again today until Aug. 17, MENA reported.
Mansour’s appointment of ElBaradei comes a day after MENA reported that he ordered the dissolution of parliament’s only functioning chamber yesterday, the Islamist-dominated upper house. The interim president appointed a team of advisers today, including a new head of intelligence, according to an e-mailed statement.
The turmoil in the country has further hurt investor confidence. Yesterday, Fitch Ratings downgraded Egypt’s long-term credit rating to B-, six levels below investment grade, from B with a negative outlook. It cited “high uncertainty over how the risks resulting from the military coup evolve over the short term and the eventual pathway to a peaceful political transition.”
Egypt’s economy is in worse shape than it was during Mubarak’s last days in office, with growth near its weakest in two decades and unemployment at a record 13.2 percent. A bid for a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan has yet to be accepted, and the country has been relying on aid, primarily from Qatar.
Yesterday, security forces arrested Khairat el-Shater, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official, former Brotherhood lawmaker Mohammed al-Umda, and Abdel Monem Abdel Maqsoud, the group’s attorney. A court ordered the last two held for 15 days and released on bail Saad El-Katatni, leader of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and Rashad Bayyoumi, another top official.
Clashes yesterday in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, left at least a dozen people dead and hundreds injured, MENA reported. Television footage from the capital yesterday showed troops moving in to disperse clashes between pro- and anti-Mursi groups, and Mursi supporters accused security forces of firing on them outside the Republican Guards headquarters.
“We call on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and to prevent further violence among their supporters,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement yesterday. “The Egyptian people must come together to resolve their differences peacefully, without recourse to violence or the use of force.”
The military intervened in the political conflict after growing anti-Mursi sentiment swelled into mass protests last week, giving him 48 hours to satisfy protesters’ demands. Mursi defied calls for his resignation, leading al-Seesi to say July 3 that Mursi had “failed to meet and conform with the demands” of the people.
“You’re going to have a bumpy ride because the army acted with a lot of popular support, but the Brotherhood still probably enjoys the support of between 10 million and 20 million Egyptians” in a country of almost 85 million, said Jon Alterman, a former State Department official for Middle East affairs, in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.