06/18/2013, 00.00
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Islamists' long reach over Egypt as suspected terrorist is appointed Luxor governor

President Morsi appoints 17 new provincial governors. Seven are from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. Protests break out in Luxor, Ismailia, Gharbiya and Menoufiya, Mubarak's birthplace. 'The Rebels' pro-democracy movement "collects 13 million signatures to undercut Morsi's legitimacy.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The fear that his actions might lose him legitimacy among Egyptian has prompted President Mohamed Morsi to speed up the process of "Islamisation" of government institutions. On 16 June, , the Muslim Brotherhood leader signed a presidential decree appointing 17 new provincial governors.

According to media reports, at least seven of them are affiliated with Egypt's main Islamist movement, including Ahmed El-Beili, the new governor of Gharbiya, and Ahmed Mohamed Shaarawi, his counterpart in Menoufiya, provinces in the Nile Delta region that are major constituencies for secular parties. Menoufiya is also the birthplace of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Public opinion has to worry however about the appointment of Adel Asaad El-Khayat as the new provincial governor of Luxor. He is a former leading member of the Gama'a al-Islamiya, a radical Islamist group implicated in a terrorist attack against the temple of Deir el-Bahri that claimed the lives of 58 foreign tourists.

Starting yesterday, hundreds of tour operators and employees in tourism, the province's main industry, are protesting in front of the governorate headquarters to demand the removal of the new governor, waving banners that say: "We do not want terrorists."

According to experts, Luxor is at risk. After the Muslim Brotherhood took power, the jewel of Egypt's archaeological tourism has become a ghost town.

What is more, members at the Gama'a al-Islamiya have threatened more than once to blow up statues and temples from Egypt's ancient civilisation, which they deem symbols of idolatry.

Demonstrations were also held in Ismailia against the new governor Hassan al-Hawy, as well as in Beheria, where Morsi appointed Osama Suleiman, the former secretary of the local branch of the Justice and Freedom party. According to some observers, this appointment is an attempt to provoke clashes in the city between pro-democracy activists and Islamists ahead of planned anti-Morsi protests scheduled for 30 June.

In Gharbiya, hundreds of people blocked the road that runs along the sea, chanting slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Once upon a time, provincial governorships were "reserved" to members of the military or public security apparatus. With his latest move, Morsi now has placed 12 of the country's 27 provincial governatorates in the hands of his allies. In September 2012, he had already appointed five Islamist militants to the post of provincial governors.

The Salafist al-Nour party, the main ally of the president's Justice and Freedom party in the 2011 parliamentary elections, has criticised Morsi. For party secretary Shaaban Abdel Alim, the Muslim Brotherhood's reshuffle will increase conflicts among the population.

Meanwhile, a petition to force the president to resign is gathering momentum. Organised by a group calling itself 'The Rebels', the movement has brought together many of the leading figures from the 2011 Jasmine Revolution.

According to its latest figures, some 13 million Egyptians have already signed the petition. The goal is to reach 15 million before 30 June, anniversary of the disputed elections two years ago.

In order to nip the petition in the bud, the Muslim Brotherhood launched an appeal to all its members, inviting them to take to the streets in the coming weeks.

Police remain on alert for possible clashes between opposing factions.

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