August 3, 2012 (TSR) – Egypt’s new prime minister and his Cabinet were sworn in on Thursday, the first government since the election of a Muslim Brotherhood leader as the country’s first freely elected president.
Prime Minister Hesham Kandil asked Egyptians to rally behind his new government, promising it would represent all the people and trying to deflect the belief that the Cabinet will be solely under the Brotherhood’s sway.
The Cabinet seemed designed to avoid any appearance of Brotherhood domination, including several members of the out-going, military-picked government and mainly technocratic figures. Still, Brotherhood members took four ministries, including the key information minister post, which oversees state media.
It also retains in his post Hosni Mubarak’s defense minister of 20 years, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, a reflection of how the military, which Tantawi heads, still holds overwhelming powers in the country. The military had said weeks ago that it would decide who serves as defense minister.
The new government is the first since the June 30 inauguration of President Mohammed Morsi, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood leader.
In a sign of the chaos, one person was shot to death by police Thursday when a crowd of hundreds went on a rampage against a luxury hotel on the Nile River in central Cairo. The crowd threw firebombs at the hotel, smashed its lobby and set fire to 10 cars, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk the press.
At a press conference before the swearing in, Kandil noted the country’s “grave challenges.”
“We are all Egyptians in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The coming period is not easy, to say the least, and we are all in the same boat,” he said. “This is the people’s government, it does not belong to this or that trend.”
The line-up of the 35-member Cabinet falls far short of the unity government that Morsi had initially said he would put together, bringing together political factions. Instead, the members were largely technocrats. And many will be looking to see how many of the new ministers, while not Brotherhood members, are Islamists or sympathetic to the movement to gain a real picture of the government’s diversity.
The finance and foreign ministers from the outgoing, military-picked government were retained, an apparent attempt to show there will not be destabilizing changes in those fields.
Outgoing prime minister Kamal el-Ganzouri became the first member of Morsi’s own presidential team when the president named him on Thursday as an adviser, according to state TV. El-Ganzouri, in his late 70s, also served as prime minister under Mubarak.
The Cabinet lineup includes only two women — one of them also a Christian — and signaled Morsi’s failure to give women and minority Christians more than the token representation they had under Mubarak’s 29-year authoritarian rule.
It also does not include any of the iconic youth figures of the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising. Still, Kandil sought to gain the goodwill of the secular, pro-reform groups behind the revolt, saying his government wanted to realize its slogan: “Bread, freedom and social justice.” He acknowledged that he was abroad when the uprising began Jan. 25, 2011.
The radical Islamist Al-Nour party, which supported Morsi in his presidential bid, decided to boycott the government after it was only offered the environment portfolio. It had wanted the communication, local development and business sector ministries, according to a party spokesman.
Brotherhood members were given the key ministry posts of information, higher education and housing. A fourth Brotherhood member was named minister of state for youth. The information portfolio gives the Brotherhood control over state television, long criticized by Islamists to be lax in safeguarding against Western cultural influence.
The higher education portfolio gives the Brotherhood control over the country’s universities, a traditional recruitment ground for the fundamentalist group. The Youth portfolio could give it an even wider area for recruitment and religious indoctrination.
The military generals who took over from Mubarak in February 2011 handed over power to Morsi but not before they stripped the new president of significant powers and declared themselves as the country’s legislative authority after dissolving the Brotherhood-dominated parliament. The military also has control over the process of drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
The new government comes to office during one of the worst bouts of unrest since the days and weeks that immediately followed Mubarak’s Feb. 11, 2011 ouster.
Lengthy power and water outages in Cairo and across the nation of some 82 million people have been sending thousands to the streets to protest daily. In many cases, protesters cut off roads or attacked government offices.
Source: Tehran Times