The new Egyptian government
The Chairman of the Egyptian
Armed Forces and Defense Minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, has been
retired by President Mohamed Morsi
Article added on August 13, 2012 at 16:47 Swiss time
The new Egyptian cabinet
As stated in July 2012,
Mohamed Morsi (*1951) was the better of two
unpleasant choices for the office of the Egyptian
president. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate and former Chairman of the
Freedom and Justice Party confirmed that he had no intention to transform Egypt into an Islamist state.
He announced that he intended to protect civil rights.
On July 24, 2012 Hisham Kandil (aka Hesham Qandil; *1962) was appointed
Prime Minister by President Morsi and sworn in on August 2. From 2011 to
2012, Kandil had served as Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation. He
has been described as a technocrat, an independent public servant who has
studied engineering in both Cairo and the United States (Utah State
University and North Carolina State University). Qandil has been described
as a religious person, sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood without having
ever been a member of any party.
On August 2,
Qandil presented a government list that offers hope for a peaceful
transition to a fully functioning democracy. He and President Morsi have
been wise enough not to present a cabinet dominated by the Muslim
Brotherhood. Only four formal members of the Muslim Brotherhood are part of the
cabinet (Ministries of Education, Information, Youth, Health and Housing). Most importantly, no Salafist
became a member of the new Egyptian
government because they insisted on three cabinet posts whereas Morsi was
only ready to offer them one.
Several ministers were already part of the government formed by the military
council. In addition to the four Muslim Brotherhood members, largely
independent bureaucrats and
technocrats form the new cabinet, with the exception of Mohamed Mahsoub
Abdul Magid, who is a member of the small, moderate-religious Wasat party. The heavyweights Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel
Ali Amr and
Finance Minister Momtaz Saed Abu El-Nour remain in office. New are for
instance the Minister of Interior, Ahmed Gamaludin, a former police general,
as well as the Minister of Justice, Ahmed Mekki, who rose to fame as a
critic of the Mubarak regime a a judge at the Court of Appellation.
Gamaludin promised to reform the corrupt state security establishment.
Two women are part of the new 2012-cabinet: Nagwa Hussein Ahmed Khalel is
Minister of Insurance and Social Affairs. Nadia Eskndar Zkhary heads the
Ministry of Scientific Research, as she did in the previous government.
On the government's website, I counted some 33 ministries. The prime
minister should streamline the cabinet to save money. Egypt with its 40 % of
poor and 40% of illiterate citizens should invest in its future such as
education, research and development and infrastructure, reduce red tape, its
bureaucracy and its state-owned sector, with the military being a major
economic force, running all kinds of companies. We will soon find out
whether the president and his government stick to the reform agenda they
The military under pressure
was about to write an article about the new Egyptian government when the
news of the sacking of the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces of Egyt, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (*1935), his Chief of
Staff, Sami Anan (*1948) and other high ranking officers broke. I intended
to write that among the downsides of the new regime in general and the new
cabinet in particular and the prominent presence of Mubarak's officers in
Let's not forget that Mubarak himself who handed power to the 18-member
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on February 11, 2011. It can hardly be
described as a democratically elected body.
After the end of Hosni Mubarak's regime in February 2011, as chairman of the
military council, Field Marshall Tantawi filled the political vacuum as de
facto head of state, assuring the survival of parts of the old regime.
From 1991 until yesterday, August 12, 2012 Tantawi had served as Minister of
Defense, 20 years under Mubarak. The fact that President Morsi decided to
send him into retirement is not a great loss. On the contrary, it was an
overdue act. The only surprise was that Morsi was able to do it so early
after his election. The assassination of 16 Egyptian border guards in the
Sinai and the poor handling of the matter by the military probably offered
Morsi the occasion to act.
The military remains a strong force within the Egyptian society. Just its
leaders have been changed. Even without behind the scenes knowledge, it
seems evident that President Morsi only could remove Field Marshal Tantawi
with the active support of high ranking military officers. Tantawi and Anan
have not been totally disgraced or even imprisoned. They have just been
retired by Morsi, who awarded both of them state medals and appointed them
as his advisors. It was a de facto firing or sacking, but in a civilized
On August 12, 2012 as new Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces (Scaf) and Minister of Defense, President Morsi appointed Abdel
Fattah al-Sisi (*1954), the head of the military intelligence, described as
religious man, but not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition,
President Morsi appointed Sediqi Sobhi as new chief of staff.
We can only hope that the new military leaders will keep up their secular
principles while reforming the army, which still receives $1.3 billion
annually in U.S. military aid.
President Morsi appointed Mahmoud Mekki as vice president.
On August 12, 2012 President Morsi also appointed the judge Mahmoud Mekki,
the younger brother of the current minister of justice, Ahmed Mekki, as vice
president of Egypt. Judge Mekki rose to prominence in 2005 when he had the
courage to declare that the presidential elections had been full of
irregularities and fraud. Mekki called for the independence of the judiciary
and for amending article 76 of the Egyptian Constitution regarding the
election of the president to offer a real choice among several candidates.
In 2006, a disciplinary court acquitted Mekki from all charges filled
against him by the old regime. He had the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
What will Mekkî's duties as vice president be?
President Morsi revoked the constitutional amendments made by the
military council just before his election to strip him from important powers
President Morsi revoked the constitutional amendments made by the military
council just before his election. In fact, the officers decided to hand over
only very limited powers to the new president. Above all, they wanted to
keep full control over the military.
A last remark: Have I suddenly become a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood?
No. But the changes made by Morsi point in the right direction. The danger
remains of course that, in the long run, the Muslim Brotherhood will try to
fully control Egypt and to replace the Mubarak regime by a Muslim
Brotherhood regime. But as long as the the new government remains democratic
and free and fair elections are guaranteed, the Egyptian people will remain
Egypt is a moderate country. If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood remain
reasonable, they will push for their reform agenda without creating an
Islamist state, which would be rejected by a majority of Egyptians. Within
five months, between their parliamentary election success and the
presidential election victory, the Muslim Brotherhood support was roughly
cut in half because they got too power greedy!
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Egyptian sheet music.