Egypt’s rival sides upset with new governors

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian revolutionary and Islamist groups voiced concern on Tuesday that the appointment of new governors by the interim president includes too many army and police officers, raising fears among critics that the old regime of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak is making a comeback.

The two sides are bitter rivals, but voiced similar condemnations over the appointments, which saw a total of 12 military and police officials secure posts in Egypt’s 27 provinces. Many of these officials and others served in key posts during Mubarak’s three decades in power.

Ten governors hail from the military, and two from the police. Two deputy governors are police generals.

Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour swore in the new governors, removing all 10 of ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood appointees, though many had already left their posts to join protests in Cairo against the new military-backed government. The Brotherhood is rejecting talks with the new government, much less participation in the post-Morsi transition.

Supporters of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected and civilian president who was overthrown by the military on July 3, say the new governorships are evidence that top security officials seek to keep power in the hands of military generals. They point to the coup against Morsi as further evidence.

Morsi was toppled after millions of Egyptians demanded he step down for what they saw as his failure to govern inclusively and manage the economy after years of autocracy and corruption under Mubarak. Many accused Morsi of acting only on behalf of his Brotherhood group.

Activist group Tamarod, which led mass demonstrations across the country against Morsi just days before the coup, said the governorship appointments do not express the goals of Egypt’s 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak. Tamarod spokesman Hassan Shaheen was quoted on the state-run Ahram news website as saying that former Mubarak-era officials should not be named to such posts because they already proved to be incompetent, corrupt and inefficient.

On the same website, the Strong Egypt Party of former Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh described the new appointments as a step toward the “militarization” of the state.

The shake-up came as supporters of Morsi reinforced their 6-week-old sit-ins in the capital and rallied for more protests across the country to demand his reinstatement.

The spokesman of the ultraconservative Islamist Watan Party, a sharp critic of Morsi’s ouster, warned that the selection of governors pushes Egypt back to how it was when the country’s presidents hailed from the military, including Mubarak.

“What I understood now is that liberalism in Egypt means riding a tank behind a soldier to steal the state,” Yousri Hammad said in a post on Facebook. “The new governorship moves resuscitate life back to the dissolved National Democratic Party,” he said, referring to the former ruling party of Mubarak.

The activist group known as the April 6 Youth Movement — which helped mobilize street protests against both Mubarak and Morsi — rejected the shake-up, saying it brought back “old faces that contributed to the corruption of political life before the revolution.” It called it a “failure” of the interim government and warned against moving away from the goals of the uprising that toppled Mubarak.

“Rectify these mistakes before it’s too late as we will not stand idly,” the group said in a statement.

One of the new deputy governors, Sami Sedhom, oversaw police forces in Cairo during deadly crackdowns on protesters in late 2011 that killed more than 50 people. The incidents, known as the “Mohammed Mahmoud Battle,” were key in forcing military rulers who took over after Mubarak to put in place a timeline for elections that led to civilian rule.

Tuesday’s appointments saw several military generals given governorships of border provinces, in line with tradition. Five more are now in charge of other key governorates, including in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city where clashes between pro and anti-Morsi protesters have turned violent. Three others hold Suez Canal governorates, including Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. The fifth was given the ancient city of Luxor, a prized tourist destination.

Two governorship posts were left open after it was reported that the nominees declined.

Shortly before mass protests that led to his ouster, Morsi had appointed 17 new governors in a move that critics said was aimed at solidifying Islamist power. The appointments bolstered the Brotherhood’s already entrenched grip on the executive and legislative branches at the time. The new appointments Tuesday replaced 20 governors.

The ex-president’s supporters have ramped up their protests in the past two days after news leaked of security plans to besiege their Cairo protest camps. Security officials say police delayed the action to avoid bloodshed after protests swelled.

Authorities, meanwhile, extended the detention of more than 100 pro-Morsi protesters previously detained in various clashes.

Among the key demands of protesters is the release top Brotherhood leaders charged with inciting violence.

Also Tuesday, a Cairo court said it would begin hearings on Sept. 7 for former Brotherhood lawmaker Mohammed el-Beltagy and three others for their alleged role in the abduction and beating of a policeman. El-Beltagy is also among those wanted by police for allegedly inciting violence, but has taken refuge among thousands of protesters at the main Cairo sit-in, beyond the reach of police.

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