Region | Egypt

Is Hesham Qandil the right man for Egypt?

Hesham Qandil’s only ministerial experience was six months in charge of water and irrigation when he was asked to form Egypt’s first post-revolution government

  • By Jumana Al Tamimi, Associate Editor
  • Published: 20:15 August 1, 2012

  • Image Credit: AP
  • Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi holds talks with the prime minister-designate Hesham Qandil at the presidential palace. Qandil was the minister of water resources and irrigation. Mursi has asked Qandil to form a new cabinet.

Dubai Hesham Qandil’s only ministerial experience was six months in charge of water and irrigation when he was asked to form Egypt’s first post-revolution government. 

Little was known about him personally or professionally.  That is why he was criticised for not having the “necessary political experience” that is badly needed in the country at present, and for failing “to have the economic expertise” that is equally required to help the country stand on its feet once again.

Under the current situation in Egypt, choosing a man with [certain] political affiliation or membership to a certain group could further polarise the Egyptians

Ayman Al Sayyad, Editor-in-Chief of Cairo-based Weghat Nazar

But for many of those who dealt with the 50-year-old, Qandil was a good choice; especially that he “has no political affiliation”.

“Under the current situation in Egypt, choosing a man with [certain] political affiliation or membership to a certain group could further polarise the Egyptians,” said Ayman Al Sayyad, Editor-in-Chief of Cairo-based Weghat Nazar [or perspectives], a known Arabic-language weekly publication in the region.  

“The second option was to pick up a technocrat in order to avoid this predicament. Secondly, he [Qandil] has spent his entire career in the government, so he has sufficient experience in dealing with the state’s institutions,” Al Sayyad told Gulf News.

But many don’t agree.

“I have a problem with a prime minister who is not from a political background,” said Mohammad Abbas, a leading member of the Revolution Youth Alliance, which represents the main youth groups that started and led January, 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Qandil “is not the right man for Egypt in the post revolution,” the 27-year-old Abbas told Gulf News, although he is “extremely qualified” in his field, and has a long experience”.

US-educated Qandil was the minister of water resources and irrigation in the outgoing military-appointed government. He earned his master’s degree at Utah State University and doctorate at North Carolina State University and worked at the African Development Bank, focusing on Nile Basin countries. He was part of an observer mission for Egypt in talks with Sudan on Nile River water issues.

“Our problem is an econ-omic one, not water,” Yasser Hassan, a senior member of the liberal Wafd Party was quoted by press reports as saying.  “I believe that they tend to select a weak character so that they can control him, especially in selecting the ministers. I think the only advantage is that he’s a young man.”

However, some analysts, including Al Sayyad, believe any prime minister would have faced the same criticism.  If the selected person is an economist, there will be many who would complain about his little political experience, and if he is a politician, there will be people who would complain about his little economic experience.

“Don’t forget that all Egyptian prime ministers during the past 30 years were economists. Yet this didn’t prevent the tension to reach its peak and to overthrow the regime,” said Al Sayyad.

Qandil is a “well-educated, loyal to the highest degree in performing the duty he is tasked with, workaholic, good-hearted and religious,” Al Sayyad added.  Moreover, “he is a person who can’t be an enemy to others,” he said.

While Qandil is said to be a religious person, he is not a member of the brotherhood, analysts stressed.

‘Secretary’ to president

Qandil’s light beard was among the reasons behind criticising him. Another reason is that he is the choice of the newly-elected president Mohammad Mursi, analysts said.  Mursi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali, described Qandil as “a patriotic, independent figure [who] was studied and discussed.”

Meanwhile, Emad Gad of the liberal Social Democratic Party was quoted by press reports as saying many of the well-known figures suggested for prime minister didn’t want the job because they felt it would be nothing more than a vehicle to execute Morsi’s brotherhood programme, known as “the Renaissance project”.

“They brought in someone who is not from the Brotherhood, but whose ideology is similar,” Gad said.

Other analysts say the president appointed a prime minister who was unlikely to threaten or overshadow him, analysts said. Abbas agreed and said the appointed prime minister will act more of “a secretary” to the president.

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