ElBaradei gets the boot
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ElBaradei gets the boot

Egypt reels after military sprays gunfire on Islamist demonstrators

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi carry coffins, covered with the national flag, of four men killed after Egyptian troops opened fire on mostly Islamist protesters marching on a Republican Guard headquarters Friday, in Cairo, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi carry coffins, covered with the national flag, of four men killed after Egyptian troops opened fire on mostly Islamist protesters marching on a Republican Guard headquarters Friday, in Cairo, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Following objections from a leading Salafist political party, the interim Egyptian government is expected to announce that Ziad Bahaa el-Din, an attorney and the leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, will take over as the country’s next prime minister, and not former International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohammed ElBaradei.

ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and one of the main leaders of the National Salvation Front, formerly the leading opposition movement against the rule of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, was considered the favorite for the role. He has, however, been taking flak from Egypt’s Islamists for being too liberal and internationally focused. Early reports suggest that el-Din, another fervently anti-Morsi politician, will take over as prime minister and ElBaradei will be appointed vice president.

The London-based pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reports that, in order to downplay this perception of him, ElBaradei, who spent decades living abroad as a diplomat for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry before being appointed to a number of high-profile positions in international organizations, has called “to engage the Muslim Brotherhood in the democratic process” and promised “to accept the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in new elections if it respected the rules of democracy.”

However, those words seem hollow following last week’s seizure of power by the Egyptian military and the subsequent house arrest of Morsi and dozens of senior Muslim Brotherhood figures.

According to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets yesterday in Cairo and Alexandria to continue protesting Morsi’s overthrow. Particularly disturbing videos of Islamists throwing young Egyptian men off ledges for their support of Morsi’s ouster went viral over the weekend.

On Sunday evening, Muslim Brotherhood supporters were camped out outside the Republican Guard Club in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. Witnesses say government troops fired on the group multiple times, resulting in dozens of people being evacuated to various hospitals. The death toll is still unknown, but has been put as high as 40. The Doha-based media network al-Jazeera states that the army fired on a pro-Muslim Brotherhood march in Alexandria as well, wounding dozens.

Fears that a full-blown civil war could erupt and plunge the country into the same situation that Algeria faced in the late 1990s are overblown, Ahmed Maslamani, the media adviser to the interim Egyptian president, told the Dubai-based media channel al-Arabiya.

“The fear of a likelihood of the Algerian experience is unfounded,” Maslamani said. “There will be a constitutional declaration tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. The powers of the prime minister and the vice president will be clear. The details of the political roadmap will be clearer this week. We are trying to shorten the transition period to stable governance as much as possible.”

Despite Maslamani’s comments and the military’s promise that Morsi is “in a safe place and is being respected,” a backlash by the Muslim Brotherhood is still to be expected.

“We will not negotiate with anyone until President Morsi is returned to the presidential palace,” Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref told the Saudi-owned daily a-Sharq al-Awsat. “One cannot expect Egyptians to go back to the polls again after the overthrow of the first democratic process in the country’s history. We do not accept the forced disappearance of the president, his family, and his staff.”

While the anti-Morsi protests last week reportedly saw as many as 25 million people pack the streets, Aref believes those numbers are inflated. And even if they’re not, he says, a greater number of Morsi supporters will show up for demonstrations in the coming weeks. Recently, the Muslim Brotherhood has been trying to reach out to an unexpected party for political support: the United States.

Traditionally a strong critic of the US government and its attempts to influence the political situation in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood leaders are now criticizing the US for not condemning the military coup that subverted Egypt’s democratic process. The irony has not been lost on the Arab world’s editorialists.

“The Brotherhood is asking America for help,” writes Tareq Homayed, the outgoing editor-in-chief of a-Sharq al-Awsat. “Prior to this, it was the Brotherhood that accused the Arab regimes of subservience to the West and America. Today, after losing control of Egypt because of their political mistakes, the Brotherhood is launching a campaign of disinformation claiming that they are the best example of the democratic process in the Arab world. Does anyone believe the Brotherhood spokesmen?”

Based on the protests, marches, and riots of the past few days, it seems like quite a few Egyptians actually do.

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