Cairo: Egypt’s new government, comprising four Islamists, was officially named on Thursday, becoming the country’s first since Islamist President Mohammad Mursi took office more than a month ago.
Led by Hesham Qandil, the 35-member cabinet is mostly made up of technocrats. It comprises 28 newcomers, including Maj Gen Ahmad Jamal Al Deen as interior minister; Ahmad Mekki as justice minister; Abdul Qawai Khalifa as minister of the newly-created portfolio of drinking water and sanitary drainage; and Hesham Zazou as minister of tourism. Talaat Afifi, an ex-professor at Al Azhar University was named the minister of Waqfs (religious endowments). Former prime minister Kamal Al Ganzouri has been appointed as his advisor.
Meanwhile, ministers of foreign affairs, finance, military production, scientific research, social insurance, the environment and antiquities in the pervious government of Al Ganzouri, have kept their posts in the new cabinet.
Field Marshal Hussain Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has also remained defence minister, a post he has held since 1991. SCAF ruled Egypt for 16 months after a popular revolt forced Hosni Mubarak out of power in February last year.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood has secured four ministries in the new cabinet. Mustafa Musad, who was responsible for education in Mursi’s presidential campaign, was appointed as minister of higher education.
The housing portfolio, meanwhile, went to Tareq Wafiq, the head of the housing committee in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), headed by Mursi before becoming a president. Usama Yassin, a senior FJP official was named minister of youth Salah Abdul Maqsud, a journalist and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was named minister of information. Abdul Maqsoud has replaced in the post Ahmad Anis, a former army general.
Qandil told a press conference he had yet to pick holders of the civil aviation ministry and the newly created ministry of sports before Mursi was to swear in the new cabinet later in the day.
“This is the government of the people, not a certain political trend,” Qandil said, dispelling rumours that the powerful Brotherhood influenced his pickings. “The only criterion for selecting ministers was competence,” he added.
The new cabinet sees the reinstatement of the investment ministry, signalling Egypt’s eagerness to attract foreign investment to rejuvenate its economy battered by turmoil that followed the revolt against Mubarak.
Qandil, previously a little-known technocrat, has pledged that his government would work to fulfil Mursi’s electoral programme, known as “renaissance” to solve the country’s key socio-economic problems.
Qandil, 50, has served as an irrigation minister in the past 12 months. He is Egypt’s youngest premier in five decades.
The ultra-conservative Salafist Al Nour Party has said it has decided to boycott the new government because Qandil “ignored” to engage the party in his consultations to form the cabinet. Al Nour won 26 per cent of the parliamentary seats in elections this year, coming second to the Muslim Brotherhood.