Egypt’s new prime minister has said that security is his top priority and urged a halt to protests and strikes to give the nation a breather to rebuild after more than three years of deadly turmoil.
“The first priority is to impose security, counter terrorism firmly and legally, and restore stability by preserving human rights and democracy,” said Mahlab on Sunday in a live televised address on his first day in office.
“No voice must be louder than the voice of construction and development,” said Mahlab, a former state-sector construction boss.
“I urge you to end any sit-ins, strikes and protests. Let’s begin rebuilding the nation,” he added.
Mahlab was named prime minister last week following the surprise resignation of his predecessor, Hazem el-Beblawi, after seven tumultuous months in office.
On Saturday, the new prime minister unveiled a new 31-member cabinet that retained Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as defence minister, after the previous government made a surprise exit amid mounting criticism over the battered economy and major industrial strikes.
Egypt experienced bloodshed and mass detentions as authorities staged a massive crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and, in recent weeks, an increasing number of strikes.
Egypt’s system gives most powers to the president, but the prime minister handles day-to-day economic affairs.
The turmoil sweeping Egypt since the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak has devastated the economy, particularly the vital tourism sector.
However, protesters have usually brushed off the charge that they are destroying the economy. They blame government mismanagement for hardships that include unemployment, inflation and a surge in crime.
Also in recent weeks, Egyptians have been complaining of frequent power outages, something which does not bode well for the summer since the consumption of electricity is normally much lower in winter than in the months of Egypt’s searing heat.
Media reports are saying fuel shortages are beginning to impact areas outside of Cairo. Power outages last year fed discontent against Morsi.
Mahlab’s government is tasked with organising a presidential election for this spring, which is widely expected to bring army chief el-Sisi to power.
The Field Marshal, who ousted Morsi last July, is likely to be waiting for a new election law currently being vetted by senior judges to be passed and for the election commission to formally invite hopefuls to register.
El-Sisi, 59, is expected to win a landslide election, with his only serious competition coming from leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished a surprise third in presidential election in 2012.