Secular and liberal factions in Egypt’s new leadership worked Sunday to reach a compromise with ultraconservative Islamists on a new prime minister, with a liberal economist emerging as a leading candidate for the post to run the country after the military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.
As the negotiations continued over the post, shows of strength over the removal of Egypt’s first freely elected president were far from ending, with hundreds of thousands from each side in the streets Sunday. The military deployed troops at key locations in Cairo and other cities amid fears of renewed violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood pushed ahead with its campaign of protests aimed at forcing Morsi’s reinstatement, bringing out large crowds in new rallies. Its officials vowed the group would not be “terrorized” by arrests of their leaders and the shutdown of their media outlets.
The Brotherhood’s opponents, in turn, called out large rallies in Tahrir Square and other squares in Cairo and several cities to defend against an Islamist counter-push. The rallies took on a sharply nationalist tone, with effusive praise of the military and strong anti-American sentiment over perceived U.S. support for Morsi and his Brotherhood.
Military warplanes swooped over the crowd filling Tahrir, drawing a heart shape and an Egyptian flag in the sky with colored smoke. In the square, large banners read, “Obama, hands off, a message to the U.S. Obama supports the terrorists of 911” with a picture of Obama with an Islamist’s beard.
Throughout Morsi’s year in office, many of his opponents accused the U.S. of backing his administration. Washington often underlined that it was dealing with Morsi as the country’s elected leader.
Before the wave of anti-Morsi protests began on June 30, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson said she was “deeply skeptical” protests would be fruitful and defended U.S. relations with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood as necessary because the group is part of the elected Egyptian government.
Since Morsi’s removal Wednesday, it has acted carefully, expressing concern without outright calling the army’s move a coup or denouncing Morsi’s ouster. On Saturday, the White House said in a statement that it rejects “false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt’s transition should proceed,” saying it is committed to Egyptians’ aspirations for democracy.
“The West, the U.S.A. and Great Britain are hypocrites,” said protester Magdi Iskandar, a 59-year-old businessman. “They don’t want us to have true democracy.”
In the prime minister negotiations, 48-year-old liberal economist Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, a longtime critic of the Brotherhood and reform advocate, emerged as a leading candidate, a spokesman of the interim president said.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Bahaa-Eldin confirmed his name was put forward, saying he “is still thinking about it.”
His name emerged after the ultraconservative Salafi party blocked a move Saturday by liberal and secular factions to appoint the country’s most prominent reform figure, Mohammed ElBaradei. Under the compromise, ElBaradei would be named vice president.
The negotiations reflected a central tension in the collection of groups that backed the military in its removal of Morsi. Most of those groups are liberal, secular, leftist or “revolutionary,” and they are determined to get one of their own in the main leadership.
But there is one major Islamist faction among their ranks — the ultraconservative al-Nour Party, which broke with Morsi months ago.
ElBaradei is considered one of the inspirations of the revolutionary groups that led the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak. But many Islamists see him as too secular.