After naming his 35-member cabinet, Egypt’s Prime Minister designate described his government as a “people’s government” calling on Egyptians to rally behind it and the nation’s newly elected president in the face of “grave challenges.” The new government, sworn in last week is the first since President Mohammed Morsi, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood leader, was inaugurated as Egypt’s first freely elected president.
Although the cabinet was not dominated by Islamists as widely speculated, it still fell short of the unity government that Morsi had initially promised to put together in order to bridge the gap between political factions. Instead, the members of the cabinet were mostly technocrats. Three Brotherhood members were given ministries while several members of the outgoing, military-backed government were to retain their posts, including the foreign and finance ministers.
The choice of Kandil who was seen as a devout Muslim was greeted with stiff apprehensions as liberals and leftists who led the uprising against Mubarak allege that he was sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. But Kandil has maintained that he has no formal links to any of the country’s Islamist political parties.
According to a party spokesman, the radical Islamist Al-Nour party which supported Morsi in his presidential bid has distanced itself from the new government on the grounds that it was only offered the environment portfolio instead of the communication, local development and business sector ministries. The women folk appear not too satisfied as Morsi, they allege, has only toed the same line as his predecessor, Mubarak who in his 29 year reign failed to give women and minority Christians more than a token representation. According to the list, the Cabinet lineup included only two women with only one of them, a Christian.
Also excluded were leaders of the youth figures who partook in the 18-day, anti-Mubarak revolt while Brotherhood members were allegedly given key ministerial positions of higher education and housing with a third Brotherhood member named minister of state for youth.
The new government comes at a time when tensions are rising over the country’s weak security and growing popular discontent over issues such as widespread power and water outages as well as shortages. There has been Sectarian violence in the past week in Dahshour village south of Cairo. Muslim mob were busy burning down Christian homes and damaging the local churches thereby forcing many Christian families to flee the villages. In many cases, protesters cut off roads or attacked government offices.
Each day protesters throng the gates of Morsi’s presidential palace in Cairo in their hundreds to express a wide range of grievances or to demand jobs, better medical care or housing. In other cases, infuriated mob angered by poor quality of medical care given to their sick relatives, have repeatedly attacked staff at outpatient wards of government hospitals.
Responding to the ever growing number of disgruntled citizens, Morsi opened two offices to receive their complaints. The offices have been attracting thousands of aggrieved persons who had high hopes of getting prompt attention to their grouse from the new president. Their disappointment grew worse when it so seemed that their demands would be far from being met. Hope is gradually giving way to despair as applicants soon take to protest.
Egypt’s economy is equally not faring well at this time. More than half of its foreign currency reserve is being wiped out in the last 18 months while tourism which has been a mainstay of the economy is dwindling very fast owing to the incessant unrest in the country.
Analysts are keenly watching to see how Kandil, who announced that security and the economy were his top priorities will quickly settle down to tackle these challenges.