By MAGGIE MICHAEL and SARAH EL DEEB
CAIRO (AP) - Almost daily, armed Egyptians angry over poor services storm hospitals, beating up or menacing doctors. Others took over a governor's office to protest weeks without running water. Fabric workers shut down factories with strikes demanding better conditions.
Lawlessness, economic troubles and public frustration have been growing in Egypt for months under the country's uncertain leadership. Now, Egypt's first elected president, Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood president has taken his first step to forming his own government, but there is deep skepticism he will be able to fix anything amid a power struggle with the military.
Morsi on Tuesday designated a young, largely unknown technocrat, Irrigation and Water Minister Hesham Kandil, as his prime minister, raising criticism that the choice is not experienced or strong enough to face the country's problems.
Political fighting puts heavy limitations on the new government. The military, which ruled the country since last year's ouster of Hosni Mubarak, still holds overwhelming powers, including legislative authority. Powerful security agencies are largely out of Morsi's control, even though officially they fall under his preview. Liberal parties have refused Morsi's calls to join a unity government, saying they do not want to carry out the Brotherhood's agenda and that the Brotherhood should bear responsibility for its results.
Treading through its first experience with an elected president, the country of 82 million is deeply divided over Morsi's Islamist background. Many wrote off Kandil _ an independent in his late 40s who wears the light beard of a religious conservative _ as a lightweight with no track record. It took Morsi almost a month to name a prime minister, reflecting the difficulty of finding a stronger consensus figure.
"One would expect the choice to be someone who understands economic policies or has a proven record and achievement as a technocrat. He has neither. What he does have is a beard and he is religious," said Mahmoud Salem, a liberal activist.
Saad Emara, a leading member of the Brotherhood's political party, said that's unfair and that others should back the government but aren't doing so to undermine Morsi.
"The country is weak enough that it needs cooperation of all forces. We need to be one hand. The opposition doesn't want that. It just doesn't want an Islamist in the leading position."
Since Mubarak fell in February 2011, Egypt has had interim governments appointed by the military. The government headed by Kandil will be the first formed by an elected president. Theoretically, this is the civilian government that Egyptians hope could finally stop the country's deterioration.
Over the past year and a half, Egypt has seen a dramatic surge in crime, deadly street protests, a faltering economy and seemingly non-stop strikes. Police have abandoned many of their duties, and public services, already in bad shape under Mubarak, have further declined.
Doctors, for example, say that not a day passes without an attack on a hospital, most by people angry over lack of services.
The emergency center at Cairo's biggest public hospital al-Qasr al-Aini was shut down Thursday when men armed with knives and machetes attacked workers and guards. The men were furious after the gynecologist who delivered the baby of a female relative asked them to purchase their own blood bags for her from outside the hospital because the facility was short. The daily Al-Masry al-Youm reported the assault left three security guards in critical condition.
Some doctors in several cities shut their hospitals in protest over police failure to protect them. For three days, the emergency center at Ras el-Teen hospital in Alexandria has been closed after an angry mob beat up the sole doctor on duty and threw stones, demanding the doctor examine a relative.
"The curve and frequency of the assaults are going up," said Mona Mina, a member of the doctors' syndicate. "Patients and their families are more and more angry because of poor service, doctors can't answer, security is absent and assaults are horrendous."
Attacks began when security forces pulled from the streets during last year's uprising against Mubarak, but they have accelerated dramatically from one a month to up to four a day, she said.
"One day we will wake up on news of a murder of a doctor or nurse on the hands of patients or residents setting fire to a hospital," she said. "And you can't blame an angry citizen."
In an attempt to show action, Morsi on Tuesday asked the military police to provide protection to hospitals.
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