'Egypt army to give new PM extra powers'

New PM Ganzouri says army to issue decree "within hours"; move could anger civilians already unhappy with his appointment.

December 6, 2011 16:21
2 minute read.
Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri

Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)

CAIRO - Egypt's new prime minister said on Tuesday the ruling army would grant him extra powers, the state news agency reported, after critics accused the military of failing to give the last cabinet enough clout.

Kamal al-Ganzouri, who has been forming a "government of national salvation", said the army would issue a decree "within hours" to hand the premier "presidential powers except those concerning the judiciary and armed forces".

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He did not give further detail.

The military has jealously shielded its own broad interests from civilian oversight. But, under pressure from protests, the army has said it would cede power to civilians in mid-2012 after a presidential vote, sooner than it had planned.

The appointment of Ganzouri, 78, has been criticized by protesters seeking a full purge of the system because he served as prime minister in the 1990s under ousted President Hosni Mubarak. He has yet to name his new cabinet.

State media previously said about half the cabinet would keep posts they had under the outgoing premier, Essam Sharaf. At least two ministers staying on served when Mubarak was still in office and have survived successive reshuffles, it said.

A senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, which secured the biggest chunk of votes in first round of a parliamentary election, said it was reviewing Ganzouri's statement on being granted more powers.

Critics accused Sharaf's cabinet of not carrying out deep enough reforms of the police force, which was hated for the way it crushed dissent under Mubarak. Police were accused of heavy-handed tactics in violent clashes with demonstrators last month.

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The protests pushed the army to accept the resignation of Sharaf's cabinet.

Protesters in Cairo and other cities demanding an immediate end to military rule faced teargas, pellets and rubber bullets in clashes that killed 42 people. They also accused police of firing live rounds. Officials denied this.

Politicians have also accused the army of meddling in economic policy, particularly over whether or not Egypt will sign up to a $3.2 billion financing facility from the International Monetary Fund to supports its battered economy.

Egypt first negotiated the facility this year but turned it down in the summer in part because the then finance minister said the army did not want to build up debts. The next minister said Egypt was inclined to take the funds, but the incoming minister has now said Cairo is not ready to decide.

A senior army finance official said this month that Egypt did not want foreign borrowing because it came with too many political strings attached.

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