x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mohammed Morsi plans to appoint woman deputy

Egypt's Islamist president-elect plans to name a woman and a Christian among his deputies.

Mohammed Morsi at a Cairo rally last month, before winning Egypt’s landmark presidential vote.
Mohammed Morsi at a Cairo rally last month, before winning Egypt’s landmark presidential vote.

CAIRO // Egypt's Islamist president-elect plans to name a woman and a Christian among his deputies, as he seeks to form an administration to heal rifts that divided the country after last year's revolt.

Mohammed Morsi, who won a presidential run-off vote on June 24, will appoint up to five vice presidents "including a Copt, a woman and a member of the youth", said Yasser Ali, his spokesman.

The Muslim Brotherhood candidate, a US-trained engineer, narrowly defeated Ahmed Shafiq, who served as premier under former president Hosni Mubarak. Mr Morsi now faces the challenge of reviving an economy that has struggled to recover amid political tensions, and appeasing a population weary of the collapse in security since Mubarak's fall last year.

Mr Morsi, 60, yesterday held talks with youth groups and party leaders, and has met with members of the Christian minority and the families of those killed in the uprising. He is seeking to broaden support before a handover of power by the ruling generals, due by June 30.

The man elected as Egypt's first civilian president faces likely opposition from some political groups that cast the presidential election as a battle between political Islam and secularism, said Yasser El Shimy, a Mideast analyst for the International Crisis Group consultancy.

Groups such as the Free Egyptians and the Tagammu are "dead-set against helping a Muslim Brotherhood president succeed", said Mr El Shimy, a former diplomat, adding that it could affect his chances of pulling together a national unity government.

"Not only does he have to worry about those secular parties, but he also has to worry about a rather hostile media and a rather uncooperative military," he said. "He may also have to worry about a security establishment that has an interest in seeing him fail. Unfortunately, in the next few months, we're going to see a game of spoilers from many different actors."

Egyptian newspapers have printed the names of several potential deputies and prime ministers, including the Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and Hazem El Beblawi, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister. But Mr Ali said the names being discussed in the media were "speculation".

The office of Egyptian president-elect also said it would file a lawsuit against the Iranian news agency Fars for making up an interview with him that said he promised to improve ties between the two countries. "President Morsi was never interviewed by Iran's Fars news agency. The interview was fabricated and his presidential office has begun taking legal action against the news agency," Mr Ali told Reuters. Mr Morsi will take office with his authority curtailed after the ruling generals issued constitutional addendums hours after the polls closed on June 17 that gave them broader powers at the expense of the presidency.

The decrees, coming after the constitutional court on June 14 ordered the Islamist-dominated parliament dissolved, sparked fears the military council was not as committed to the transition to democracy as it had claimed.

The military suffered a setback on Tuesday when the Supreme Administrative Court, traditionally more independent than other courts in Egypt, overturned a decree by the justice minister awarding the military the right to arrest civilians.

While Mr Morsi has struck a more conciliatory tone with the military, repeatedly praising them and the security forces as pillars of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has kept up the pressure.

The group said yesterday that it would participate in another mass rally today for "handing over power". It has continued a rolling protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square for more than a week to put pressure on the ruling generals to give back the powers they took from the presidency and to reinstitute the parliament.

The legislature's fate remains uncertain as the court adjourned until July 9 a hearing in a case challenging Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi's right to disband the legislature. Preserving the legislature, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, would bolster Mr Morsi's position.

The delay also left it unclear where the president-elect will take the oath of office. Mr Morsi's campaign staff have said that he wants to swear the oath in the parliament, as his predecessors have done, rather than before the court that ordered the parliament's dissolution.

Mr Ali said a decision on the venue will be announced today.

Looking to distance himself from his predecessor, Mr Morsi has tried to discourage the sort of cult of personality that was endemic under Mubarak. He asked that money that would be spent on adverts congratulating him be routed to other causes and for his picture not be put up in government offices and buildings, the official Middle East News Agency reported yesterday.

Television footage of Mr Morsi's meeting with the families of casualties from the uprising showed him kissing the foreheads of some people and pledging to bring to justice those who had participated in the killings.

* With additional reporting by Reuters