Appointment of 19 Generals as Provincial Governors Raises Fears in Egypt

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CAIRO -- Egypt's new military-appointed government on Tuesday named a roster of generals as provincial governors, raising fears of a return to the authoritarianism of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Of the 25 provincial governors named, 19 are generals: 17 from the military and 2 from the police. One police general has become well known for his openly insubordinate refusal to protect supporters of Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist whose candidacy was advanced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

A military general appointee, Gov. Mahmoud Othman Ateeq of Sohag, a former deputy governor in Alexandria, was filmed in 2011 raising a gun at a demonstration of teachers, who can be heard begging for their lives.

Of the six civilians, two are judges known as Mubarak loyalists deeply hostile to the Islamists behind Mr. Morsi. In Giza, the second-largest province by population, the civilian governor has held the job since he was appointed by the military council that seized power after Mr. Mubarak. In Cairo, the capital and most populous province, the new governor, Galal Mostafa Saed, was a senior figure in Mr. Mubarak's old governing party. Mr. Saed had governed a smaller province before he was thrown out during the 2011 revolution.

None of Mr. Morsi's Islamist appointees -- 11 of Egypt's 27 governors -- were kept on, but six of nine generals whom he had appointed to governorships retained those posts, although one was moved to Alexandria from the Red Sea region.

By naming so many generals, the new government installed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi also returned to one of Mr. Mubarak's trademark tactics, using the governorships to cultivate the loyalty of top officers while extending the grip of his police state.

Prominent activists who had opposed both Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Morsi immediately denounced the appointments as a return of the old autocracy. "Sisi is Mubarak," the activist Alaa Abd El Fattah wrote in a Twitter message echoed widely.

Even some founders of the petition drive that paved the way for Mr. Morsi's ouster began for the first time to question the leaders they had helped bring to power. "Our reasons for revolting against the two regimes were the same, so it's not right for governors to be appointed this way," Hassan Shaheen, an organizer of the petition drive, known as Tamarrod, said, according to the state newspaper Al Ahram. "It's not right to use figures in state institutions who were already proved incompetent or corrupt before the revolution."

The new government offered little public explanation on Tuesday but signaled that tightening security was its top priority. "It was asserted that no acts will be allowed that would damage the state's prestige or the security of the homeland and the citizens," Al Ahram reported. It said Adli Mansour, the seldom-seen interim president appointed by the military, had "urged the governors to work hard on improving the security conditions."

Mr. Morsi had pushed through a referendum on an Islamist-backed constitution that, against the advice of international experts to adopt elections, retained the presidential appointment of governors.

Mr. Morsi's appointment of the 11 Islamist governors had added to the fear that Islamists were trying to monopolize power. He also aroused a special furor with his ill-considered selection of a governor in Luxor from the Islamist party founded by Gamaa al-Islamiya, which conducted a terrorist attack there that killed more than 60 people in 1997, before the Brotherhood renounced violence. That governor later withdrew his name.

Two governorships remained vacant Tuesday, pending new appointments.

The country's new government appeared Tuesday to be rewarding one of the police generals, Gov. Salah el Din Zeyada of Minya Province, for his open refusal to curb violence against Mr. Morsi's Islamist supporters.

Before the protests that preceded Mr. Morsi's ouster, an association of police officers disseminated a video of General Zeyada vowing that no police officer would do anything to protect any Brotherhood office. "The headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood will not be secured," the general said in remarks widely cited by anti-Islamist activists as a green light to attack.

Some governors have little experience in their new provinces. Among the qualifications of Gen. Arabi Al Serwy to be governor of Suez, state news media reported: he had "visited Suez more than once during this past year, most recently in December 2012." In the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya, the government named as deputy governor a police general, Sami Sidhom, who is notorious among political activists for his oversight of deadly crackdowns against dissent under both Mr. Mubarak and the generals who took power after him.

Malek Adly, a human rights advocate who has supported the military takeover to oust the Islamists, has said his wife was slapped by General Sidhom while the general's forces were crushing a 2006 demonstration against Mr. Mubarak before his last rigged election.

Tuesday's appointments included one woman as a deputy governor, a rarity in Egypt. Nadia Ahmed Abdo was named deputy governor of Beheira Province. Before Mr. Mubarak's ouster, she was a prominent member of the governing party, a member of Parliament and a chairwoman of the state's water company in Alexandria. Her latest appointment stirred a controversy in Alexandria because of the response to a water cutoff there shortly after her election to Parliament in 2010. The water company was closed that day, ignoring citizens' complaints, Al Ahram reported then.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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