Al Nour party withdraws from negotiations to form interim government in Egypt

The New York Times reports: A party of ultraconservative Islamists that emerged as an unexpected political kingmaker in Egypt after the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi said on Monday that it was suspending its participation in efforts to form an interim government.

A spokesman for the Al Nour party said its decision was a reaction to a “massacre” hours earlier at an officers’ club here in which security officials said more than 30 people had been killed. The decision brought new complexities and unanswered questions to the effort to create a transitional political order.

The Al Nour party was the only Islamist party to support removing Mr. Morsi, despite his ties to the more moderate Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. And the sight of Al Nour’s bearded sheik, standing behind the general who announced the takeover on television, was the only signal to Egyptian voters that the move had not been an attack on Islam, as some of the ousted president’s supporters are saying.

The party played a starring role in the military’s choreographed presentation of its takeover as the chance to reunify a country on the brink of civil war between opponents and supporters of Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. But while Al Nour’s leaders say they intend to build bridges, some liberals say the party is pushing potentially divisive demands, from picking a new prime minister to keeping Islam prominent in any new constitution.

Over the weekend, Al Nour tested its leverage for the first time to force the retraction of an announced plan to name a liberal icon, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, as interim prime minister.

“You just can’t do something like that, after we had appeared right next to you on the scene” at the televised announcement, Younis Makhyoun, a Nour party leader, said on Sunday. “We have grass roots,” Mr. Makhyoun added, “and they don’t agree on the choice of ElBaradei.”

Instead, state news media outlets reported on Sunday that the interim government was close to naming as acting prime minister Ziad Bahaa el-Din, a former head of Egypt’s investment authority. A Nour leader blessed him in a radio interview as “one of the liberal figures that we greatly respect.” [Continue reading…]

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