As the fault lines of Egypt's ongoing political crisis continue to harden, the country's military leader announced that he had named Hazem el-Beblawi, a former finance minister, as its new prime minister, a move that installs a respected technocrat in a position where he will have to confront Egypt's daunting economic problems.
The appointment of Beblawi was accompanied by the news that reformist leader and Nobel peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei has been tapped as the vice president responsible for foreign affairs. The liberal ElBaradei had been in line to assume the post of prime minister, but his appointment to that post was torpedoed by the Salafist Nour party. With Beblawi's appointment to the position, the military tapped a man who served as finance minister during the previous military transitional government and who has said that he knows exactly what it will take to cure Egypt's struggling economy.
"The thing is we have a situation whereby we have to tighten the belt. And this means we have to pay a price," Beblawi told the Washington Post in October. "And it is difficult to ask people to sacrifice, particularly after the revolution, where everyone was expecting to get rewards for past experiences." Among the most pressing challenges facing Beblawi is securing a $4.8 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund. But Beblawi received some welcome news Tuesday: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced they would provide $8 billion in aid, a move geared equally at shoring up the government and undermining the monarchies' Islamist enemies.
As the outlines of Egypt's transitional government takes form, the crackdown on Islamist political groups continues apace. On the heels of the Egyptian army opening fire on Islamist protesters and killing at least 51 people, Egypt's prosecutor said Wednesday that the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, would be arrested on charges of inciting violence. In sum, some 650 Islamist political leaders have been ordered arrested, and deposed President Mohamed Morsy and his top aides remain in military custody.
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