CAIRO (Reuters) – Deadlock over Egypt’s interim prime minister entered a third day yesterday after the Islamist Nour Party rejected candidates for interim prime minister, prolonging the impasse amid huge protests that turned violent and killed more than 35.
Egypt’s military, which overthrew elected leader President Mohamed Mursi on Wednesday, can ill afford a lengthy political vacuum at a time of violent upheaval and economic stagnation in the Arab world’s largest nation of 84 million people.
Scenes of running street battles between pro- and anti-Mursi demonstrators in Cairo, Alexandria and cities across the country have alarmed Egypt’s allies, including key aid donors the United States and Europe, and Israel, with which Egypt has had a U.S.-backed peace treaty since 1979.
At least 35 people died in violence on Friday and Saturday in fresh turmoil that came two and a half years after autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 uprising.
While yesterday was calmer, the sight of huge crowds numbering hundreds of thousands gathering in different parts of Cairo was a reminder of the risks of further instability.
The transitional administration, installed by the army to steer Egypt to fresh elections, put forward two possible liberal-minded choices for the key position of interim prime minister over the weekend.
On both occasions the Nour Party said no.
Nour had signed up to the army’s roadmap for the political transition, giving Islamist legitimacy to an audacious overthrow rejected by Islamic parties aligned to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
That has given it leverage over the choice of the next prime minister. But already accused by other Islamists of betraying their cause, Nour must tread carefully to avoid losing support among its core constituency.