Military has strong presence in Egypt’s new government
EGYPT’S military leader, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, is to keep his post as defence minister in the country’s new cabinet, the newly appointed prime minister announced yesterday, ensuring a continuing role for the powerful military in the first post Mubarak government.
Prime minister Hisham Qandil was sworn in yesterday along with other cabinet members before president Mohammed Morsi, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader, more than one month after he took office.
Field Marshall Tantawi, who headed the Supreme Council of Armed Forces which took control of the country after last year’s uprising toppled president Hosni Mubarak, also served as defence minister under the former dictator. Ahead of the presidential election results Egypt’s military, long an influential force under Mubarak, consolidated its grip on power by stripping the incoming president of key powers and handing legislative authority to itself after dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood dominated parliament.
The new cabinet is formed mostly of technocrats. At least seven ministers were held over from the outgoing military-appointed transitional government, including the foreign and finance ministers, a move that could be intended to dispel fears of an Islamist monopoly of power.
In a surprise appointment, former prime minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, who was also appointed by Egypt’s generals to oversee the transition period, was named a presidential advisor to Mr Morsi.
At least five posts went to the Muslim Brotherhood, including two key ones: heading the education ministry and the information ministry, which regulates the media.
Mr Qandil, a US-educated former irrigation minister who describes himself as a devout Muslim but denies official links to any Islamist party, called on the people of Egypt to rally behind the new 35-member cabinet which he described as a “people’s government” to help the country face the grave challenges that lie ahead.
He said: “It is high time for us to rally around the elected president and around the new government in order to overcome challenges together.”
He insisted that his government had been appointed based on merit alone, with no factors such as religious background or party leanings playing a role.
Yet the cabinet falls short of the national unity government Mr Morsi promised when he came to office. Many had hoped to see prominent liberals or reformist figures gain seats.
A prominent judge, Ahmed Mekki, who was known for speaking out against vote rigging in the Mubarak era was assigned justice minister. Two new ministries, of youth and of sport, were created, but directorship of the youth ministry was handed to a Muslim Brotherhood member rather than a revolutionary youth leader.
The delay in forming a government has fuelled speculation that Mr Morsi had difficulty persuading people to accept posts in his ministry. Many have been disillusioned by the Muslim Brotherhood’s performance in politics over the past year.
In further evidence of the breakdown in security across the country, one person was killed yesterday when police opened fire on a mob of around 500 people who stormed a luxury Nile-side hotel in Cairo, smashing the lobby and setting cars on fire. The row escalated after residents of a nearby shanty town tried to enter the hotel.
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