Brotherhood takes softer line on Egypt government

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said on Tuesday it recognized its demand to sack Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri’s cabinet is unlikely to be heeded by the ruling generals but that it did not want a standoff with the army, toning down tough talk by some of its MPs.

The Brotherhood is the biggest bloc in parliament which this week voted to begin steps to withdraw confidence from the army-appointed cabinet, a move that would take Egypt into uncharted political waters shortly before the military is due to relinquish power. The army says it will hand over to a new president by July 1.

The Islamist Brotherhood has been calling on the ruling military council to appoint a new government representing the make-up of a new parliament that was elected in Egypt’s most democratic election in six decades.

But on Tuesday, it appeared to recognize its demands were likely to be ignored and that there was so little time left before the planned handover of power that it was not worth making a major issue of the cabinet’s makeup.

“The matter is in the hands of the military council and it seems the military council does not want to sack this government,” Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for the Brotherhood, said in an interview.

Under Egypt’s interim constitution, parliament does not have the power to sack a government, something Ghozlan said he recognized. Only the military council that has been governing since Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a popular uprising a year ago has the power to do that.

“We will not take matters to the stage of confrontation. We respect the constitution,” he said.

Asked what would happen if a planned vote of no confidence in Ganzouri was ignored by the military council, he said he did not think it would create political tension. “I do not think so because the remaining period is short,” he said.

“There are many problems in Egypt which will not bear tension and confrontation or anything like this, and from the start of the revolution we have avoided confrontation with the military council and any other party.”


The Nour Party, the more hardline Islamist group that came second to the Brotherhood in the parliamentary election, said it opposed withdrawing confidence from the Ganzouri government, though a spokesman described the current cabinet as a failure.

“It is not the right time,” said Yousry Hammad, the spokesman. He said Egypt needed stability so a new constitution could be drafted and presidential elections could go ahead.

Analysts say changing the cabinet now could also complicate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a $3.2 billion loan the government of Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri is seeking to stave off a looming financial crisis after more than a year of political and economic turmoil.

State media reported on Tuesday that the head of the ruling military council had contacted parliament and Ganzouri in an attempt to end the tension.

Parliament’s criticism of Ganzouri has focused on issues such as security lapses that contributed to a February 1 soccer stadium disaster in Port Said, Egypt’s economic problems, and, most recently, the authorities’ decision to lift a travel ban on U.S. citizens charged in a probe into civil society groups.

Under Mubarak, parliament was little more than a rubber stamp for government decisions. The more assertive role played by parliament since the legislative election is one measure of change in Egypt since Mubarak was ousted.

Parliament has yet to say when it will hold its no-confidence vote in the Ganzouri government.

( / 13.03.2012)

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