Egypt’s military-backed interim government, on Tuesday, appointed as prime minister, Hazem El-Beblawi, a former finance minister who served during part of the transitional period after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, taking the government a step closer to forming a cabinet, in a volatile political environment characterized by deep discord between key players.
Premier el-Beblawi, who takes charge at a time when the country is facing its worst economic slowdown in 20 years with high levels of unemployment, said talks to form a cabinet would last a few days and promised to allocate some cabinet posts to Muslim Brotherhood members -- an offer that was promptly rejected by the Brotherhood’s senior leadership, news reports said.
The government is struggling to gain support from Egypt’s main political movements, as interim President Adly Mansour’s declaration on Monday setting a timetable for the country’s political transition was rejected by the liberal opposition, as well as by the Islamists.
The National Salvation Front, or NSF, the main liberal opposition coalition, which rejected the official decree that sought to amend the constitution and scheduled parliamentary and presidential elections for early 2014, demanded more changes and consultation on the document but did not detail the nature of changes they wished to make, BBC reported.
President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and the Tamarod movement, which led the nationwide protests that culminated in Morsi's ouster, had both earlier rejected the government’s plan.
Under the interim government's plan, two committees would be set up to draft amendments to the constitution, adopted late last year by a constituent assembly dominated by Islamists. A public vote on the amended document would be held within four months, while parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held around mid-February, closely followed by the presidential election.
Defense Minister Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, in a televised address on Tuesday, warned against attempts to disrupt the country’s transitional agenda, saying that the “future of the nation is too important and sacred for maneuvers or hindrance, whatever the justifications,” BBC reported.
Prominent opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace laureate and a former U.N. diplomat, was appointed vice president for foreign relations, presidential spokesman Ahmed al-Muslimani, was quoted as saying, by Al-Jazeera.
In an interview last month with Daily News Egypt, el-Beblawi had proposed canceling food and fuel subsidies, noting that the level of subsidies in Egypt is “unsustainable” and “have exceeded reasonable limits,” accounting for “more than 25 percent of the budget.”
“It is a pressing shortfall, and if continued may blow up into a dire threat to the Egyptian economy.”