Egypt's president on Sunday appointed 17 new provincial governors, including seven members of his Muslim Brotherhood, adding to its already considerable power in the legislative and executive branches.
Mohammed Morsi's appointments come before the June 30 anniversary of his taking office, when the liberal and secular Egyptian opposition plans mass demonstrations to demand his ouster.
A leading opponent, Mohamed ElBaradei, told a group of striking writers, film makers and Opera House staffers on Sunday, "We hope to see early departure of the regime ... it's a surreal and absurd regime."
The opposition accuses Morsi and his allies of trying to monopolize power and install their operatives in every state institution. The Brotherhood accuses the opposition of trying to unseat Morsi after failing in elections.
Besides the new Brotherhood governors, the appointment of Adel el-Khayat, a member of the political arm of ex-Islamic militant group Gamaa Islamiya, drew attention. He will rule the ancient southern city of Luxor, a main tourist site.
In 1997, his group claimed responsibility for what became known as Luxor massacre, when 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed at the Temple of Hatshepsut outside Luxor. Since then, the city has seen Islamists as a threat to their tourist income.
Gamaa Islamiya later renounced violence and turned to politics. The party is a top ally of Morsi, and its leaders have threatened an "Islamic revolution" if liberals try to unseat the Islamist president.
The appointments mean that the Brotherhood controls the governorships in 10 out of the country's 27 provinces, allowing it to further consolidate power, as governors play an influential role in arrangements for elections.
Military and police generals run at least nine other provinces, a throwback to the era of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, when both powerful institutions had a share of the country's provincial authorities. Mubarak was deposed in 2011.
Some of the provinces to be run by Brotherhood governors are opposition strongholds, such as the Nile Delta provinces of Gharbiya and Menoufia.
The new governors are scheduled to take their oath of office on Monday.