Egypt Housing Minister Mahlab Asked to Form New Cabinet

Egypt’s prime minister-designate vowed to form a new government within days and pursue the fight against terrorism, ahead of a presidential election race in which Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Seesi may run

In his first televised news conference since being asked to form a new cabinet, Ibrahim Mahlab, who served as housing minister in Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi’s government, said presidential elections will be held in an ‘environment of security, safety, stability and transparency.’’

Mahlab was tapped for the post after El Beblawi’s cabinet quit yesterday -- a move widely seen as helping pave the way for a presidential run by Al-Seesi. Authorities say the upcoming vote will help stabilize the country after a wave of violence. The army’s toppling of President Mohamed Mursi in July was followed by a crackdown on Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood that left hundreds of its supporters killed.

Al-Seesi, a U.S.-trained officer who was appointed defense chief by Mursi, has rocketed in popularity since he led the ouster of his former boss. He has been touted in the media, on billboards and in song as the best candidate for the presidency. Critics say the violence by security forces against Islamists and other protesters marks a return to a police state.

Mahlab, the incoming premier, had served as the head of the biggest government-owned construction company under former President Hosni Mubarak, and local newspapers reported that he was a member of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Mahlab couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm that.

“Appointing a former NDP member means the coup has empowered the counter-revolution,” Magdy Qorqor, a member of the main Islamist alliance supporting Mursi, said in a phone interview. “Egypt has returned to before January 2011,” when the uprising against Mubarak began, Qorqor said.

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