April 23, 2014

Qandil Cabinet sworn in

Screen grab show new Egyptian PM Hisham Qandil taking the oath before President Morsi.

BY SAFAA ABDOUN AND SARAH EL SIRGANY

Cairo: Following weeks of speculation, leaks and rumors, a new Cabinet was sworn in under the leadership of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil Thursday. Thirty-five ministers comprise the first government under President Mohamed Morsi, including some familiar faces and others criticized for being holdovers from the old regime.

Retaining his post since 1991, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has kept the defence portfolio despite talk in the past week of conflict between Morsi and SCAF over a proposal to replace him.

The new Cabinet, the fourth since the January uprising, includes seven ministers who served under former Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury: Minister of Finance Momtaz El-Saeed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Kamel Amr, Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of Military Production Ali Ibrahim Sabry, Minister of Environment Hussein Kamel, Minister of Social Affairs Nagwa Khalil and Minister of Scientific Research Nadia Zakhary.

Khalil and Zakhary are the only women in the new Cabinet and Zakhary is the only Copt.

The Cabinet also includes four new ministries: Water and Sewage, led by Abdel Kawi Khalifa; Youth, headed by Osama Yassin; Sports headed by El-Amry Farouk; in addition to the revived Ministry of Investment, now led by Osama Saleh.

Defying expectations, only five portfolios were taken over by members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party: the Ministry of State for Youth, whose head Yassin is a member of the MB’s Guidance Office and is the former head of the Youth Committee in the now-dissolved People’s Assembly; the Ministry of Housing, led by Tarek Wafiq, head of the FJP’s Housing Committee; the Ministry of Higher Education, headed by Mostafa Mosaad; the Ministry of Information, headed by Salah Abdel Maqsoud; and the Ministry of Manpower, under Khaled El-Azhary.

Former Chief Justice of the Appeals Court, Ahmed Mekky, was appointed Minister of Justice. A long time supporter of the independence of the judiciary, Mekky was known for his vocal criticism of the Mubarak regime. He told Reuters that his main priority is to promote social justice and ensure the independence of the judiciary system.

Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim was replaced by General Ahmed Gamal El-Din, his assistant for the General Security Sector.

The new Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Mohamed Mahsoub, is a board member of Al-Wasat Party, while the liberal Al-Wafd and Salafi Al-Nour political parties both refused to take part in the new government.

The new Minister of Civil Aviation, Samir Imbaby, was out of the country and so has yet to be sworn in.

The Cabinet took the oath on Thursday afternoon at the presidential palace in a ceremony followed by a meeting with President Morsi. According to state news, Morsi emphasized the need to focus on his 100-day priorities: fixing security, bread and gas supply, traffic and the garbage problem as well as the importance of creating jobs for the youth, encouraging small enterprises and tourism.

Qandil had said earlier that these goals aim at making citizens feel immediate improvement. The real solutions, he explained, will take time.

Earlier today at the press conference Qandil stressed that the criteria for selecting the Cabinet members was competence and merit.

He said that he had talked with over 80 candidates who were all vetted through an examination of their CVs, their background and meticulous interviews.

The premier, who also consulted with the president, said they were looking for people “with clear vision that could be implemented” as well as strong administrative experience and the ability to deal with citizens and employees. But most importantly, he said, he was looking for candidates with genuine commitment to public service in a challenging political atmosphere.

But not everyone was happy. Even before the list was finalized, analysts and activists expressed disappointment, saying the names reflect “continuity” not change.

Lawyer and labor activist Haitham Mohamedein was particularly concerned about the choice of Manpower Minister Khaled Al-Azhary. He said the new minister, a Brotherhood member, is also a member of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, which has long been locked in a power struggle with the independent unions.

The minister, Mohamedein believes, may reflect the Brotherhood’s intention to contain the labor movement, which, in turn, reflects a strategy outlined in a draft law tabled in the short-lived parliament that limited unions to one per sector.

Similar skepticism was echoed in Maspero, home of state TV and radio. The new information minister, Salah Abdel-Maqsood, also affiliated with the Brotherhood, is seen as incapable of enforcing real reform.

The speculation is that Abdel-Maqsood was selected to “contain” private media, which has been overtly critical of the Brotherhood.

“But if you impose limitations on private media, Maspero’s freedom margin will also be affected. We were only able to [push the envelope] when private media did,” said Taghrid El-Dessouki, a TV producer at Nile Live.

Qandil, however, called for unity, emphasizing that the revolution succeeded in toppling the regime because Egyptians were united. He said the revolution’s goals will inform the Cabinet’s priorities of securing bread, freedom and social justice.

Ministerial portfolios in the new Cabinet:

Minister of Agriculture and Land Cultivation: Salah Abdel-Mo’men
Minister of Antiquities: Mohamed Ibrahim
Minister of Communication: Hani Mahmoud
Minister of Civil Aviation: Samir Imbaby
Minister of Culture: Saber Arab
Minister of Defense: Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi
Minister of State for Water and Sewage Facilities: Abdel-Kawi Khalifa
Minister of Education: Ibrahim Ahmed Ghonim
Minister of Electricity and Energy: Mahmoud Balbaa
Minister of State for Environmental Affairs: Khaled Abdel Aziz
Minister of Finance: Momtaz El-Saeed
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Mohamed Kamel Amr
Minister of Health: Mohamed Mostafa Hamed
Minister of Higher Education: Mostafa Mosaad
Minister of Housing: Tarek Wafiq
Minister of Information: Salah Abdel Maqsoud
Minister of Interior: General Ahmed Gamal El-Din
Minister of Insurance and Social Affairs: Nagwa Khalil
Minister of Investment: Osama Saleh
Minister of Justice: Ahmed Mekky
Minister of State for Local Development: Ahmed Zaki Abdeen
Minister of Manpower: Khaled El-Azhary
Minister of Military Production: Aly Sabry
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs: Mohamed Mahsoub
Minister of Petroleum: Osama Kamal
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation: Ashraf El-Araby
Minister of Religious Endowments: Osama El-Abd
Minister of ٍState for Scientific Research: Nadia Zakhary
Minister of State for Sports: El Amry Farouk
Minister of Supply: Mohamed Abou-Zeid
Minister of Tourism: Hisham Zaezou
Minister of Trade and Industry: Hatem Saleh
Minister of Transport: Mohamed Rashad
Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation: Mohamed Bahaa El-Din Saad
Minister of State for Youth: Osama Yassin –The Egypt Monocle

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