News Column

Egyptian Cabinet Shuts the Door on Islamists

July 22, 2013

Egypt's interim leader swore in a Cabinet on Tuesday that included women and Christians but no Islamists as the military- backed administration moved swiftly to formalize the new political order that is markedly at odds with the deposed president and his supporters.

The changes came at a time of polarization and violence in Egypt, including new clashes that killed seven people as part of the continuing bloodshed that has marked the days following the armed forces coup that swept President Mohammed Morsi from office and cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt's military already wields great influence behind the scenes, and the army chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Morsi on July 3, was given a promotion in the Cabinet. He became a first deputy prime minister in addition to keeping his post as defense minister.

For most of the two years since the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the country has been split into two camps one led by Morsi, his Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies, and another led by secular Egyptians, liberals, Christians and moderate Muslims.

The fault lines remain, except that the Islamist camp is no longer in power. It does not include members of any Islamist parties a sign of the enduring division that follows the removal of Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president.

The interim president's spokesman had earlier said posts would be offered to the Muslim Brotherhood, but the group promptly refused, saying it would not take part in the military-backed political process and would continue protests until the legitimately elected Morsi is reinstated.

"We refuse to even discuss it," a senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, said. "What is built on illegitimacy is illegal," he said on condition of anonymity.

Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, an economist in his 70s, leads the government of 33 other ministers. Sworn in by interim President Adly Mansour, it reflected the largely liberal, secular bent of the factions who brought millions into the streets at the end of June calling for Morsi to step down and backed el-Sissi's removal of the president.

Women and Christians have a somewhat higher profile in the government, with three ministries each.




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Source: Copyright Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)


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