CAIRO – Secular and liberal factions trying to install one of their own as Egypt’s new prime minister collided into strong resistance Sunday from the sole Islamist faction that backed the military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, reflecting the difficulties in building a broad coalition behind a new leadership.
As wrangling continued over the prime minister spot, giant rallies by the movements that pushed out Morsi took on a sharply nationalist tone, pervaded with posters of the military’s chief and denunciations of the United States and President Barack Obama for what they see as their backing of the Islamist leader.
The show of strength in the streets was aimed at fending off a determined campaign by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which brought out its own supporters Sunday in large protests.
Warning that the military is turning Egypt into a “totalitarian state,” Brotherhood officials vowed to stay on the streets to reverse what they call a coup against democracy and restore Egypt’s first freely elected president to office.
Military warplanes swooped over the anti-Morsi crowd filling Cairo’s Tahrir Square, drawing a heart shape and an Egyptian flag in the sky with colored smoke. Large banners read “Obama, hands off, a message to the USA. Obama supports the terrorists of 911” with a picture of Obama with an Islamists’ beard.
Throughout Morsi’s year in office, many of his opponents accused the United States of backing his administration. Washington often underlined that it was dealing with Morsi as the country’s elected leader.
The appointment of a prime minister is the key next step in building a post-Morsi leadership. The prime minister is to hold far greater powers in running the country than the interim president – Adly Mansour, a senior judge who was sworn into the post earlier.
The bloc of secular, leftist and liberal factions that led the giant wave of protests against Morsi last week are now the main grouping in a loose collection of movements trying to fill out leadership posts. They are pushing for one of their own as prime minister to have a strong voice in shaping the country.
But also among them is a main party of the ultraconservative Islamist movement known as Salafis – al-Nour – which turned against Morsi months ago and backed the military’s ouster of him.
On Saturday, al-Nour blocked the appointment of the most prominent liberal figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, as prime minister, who is deeply distrusted by the Islamist movement as too secular.
On Sunday, the secular-liberal bloc offered a compromise candidate – Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, a prominent financial expert and an ally of ElBaradei. The interim president’s spokesman Ahmed al-Musalamani, told Egypt’s ONTV that Bahaa-Eldin was the leading candidate, with ElBaradei positioned to be named vice president.
But al-Nour again appeared prepared to block it.
“Our position is that the prime minister should not belong to a specific faction … We want a technocrat,” al-Nour Party chief Younes Makhyoun told the Associated Press. He pointed to Bahaa-Eldin’s membership in the National Salvation Front, the main umbrella group of liberal parties that was Morsi’s main opposition.