Egypt’s interim cabinet faces tough challenges at first meeting
Panel of experts work on new constitution as supporters of Morsi vow more protests
Egypt’s interim cabinet convenes for the first time today, facing a raft of challenges from reviving the economy to restoring security as supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi vow more protests.
Prime minister Hazem El Beblawi preceded the meeting with a call for reconciliation and dialogue, an offer that Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has repeatedly rebuffed since the military ousted the Islamist leader on July 3rd following mass protests.
“It’s time for agreement and consensus,” Mr El Beblawi, a former finance minister, said in an interview on state-run television last night. He likened Egypt’s struggle to restore security and revive economic growth to a war effort.
Daily protests have roiled Egypt since Mr Morsi’s ouster, leaving dozens dead, while Islamist militants have intensified attacks on army and police positions in Sinai.
The Brotherhood is planning two marches to the defense ministry in Cairo and the National Council for Human Rights today to protest the killing of three women in clashes on July 19th, the group’s political wing said.
In Sinai, three members of one family were killed and one was severely wounded when militants attacked an army checkpoint, the state-run Al Ahram newspaper reported today.
The Brotherhood, the group that fielded Mr Morsi for election last year, says his removal was a military coup and has vowed to press ahead with protests until he is released from military custody and reinstated.
Mr El Beblawi’s cabinet inherits record unemployment and a budget deficit that may widen to 12 per cent of economic output this year, according to the estimates of 11 analysts on Bloomberg.
Economic growth may slow to 2 per cent, near the worst pace in two decades, while the rate of inflation, at 9.8 per cent in June, is the highest in two years.
Today’s cabinet meeting focuses on efforts to restore security, revive the economy and reconciliation efforts, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.
“I’ll ask the ministers to inform the people of the real magnitude of the problems to understand them,” Mr El Beblawi (77) said. “I can’t prescribe a bitter medicine to a patient who doesn’t know the severity of his disease.”
Against this backdrop, a 10-member panel of legal experts appointed by interim president Adly Mansour will start work today to amend the 2012 charter passed in a referendum under Mr Morsi.
The constitution had irked Mr Morsi’s opponents, who said it favors Islamists and infringes on rights. The panel has 30 days to present its recommendations to a second committee made up of 50 public figures, including politicians, trade unionists and religious leaders.
The amendments, which must be approved in a referendum, pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections.
Tamarod, the movement that helped mobilize the street protests that led to Morsi’s ouster, has started to collect suggestions from Egyptians on the constitution, Islam Hammam, a member of the group’s central committee said by phone today.
“Our aim is to reach a constitution that is representative of Egypt’s will,” he said. The group will start a series of events to raise awareness of what he said were controversial points in the suspended charter.
“We will then submit these suggestions to the president and the charter-drafting committee to review,” he said.