Egypt’s Morsi swears in new cabinet

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil urges Egyptians to rally behind his government which retains Tantawi as defence minister.

Cairo violence
The cabinet was announced as violence in Cairo underscored the security challenges facing the country [Reuters]

Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has sworn in a new cabinet that retained military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as defence minister while giving the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies several portfolios.

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil on Thursday asked Egyptians to rally behind his new government, stating he had chosen the ministers based on their experience.

“We should stop using such terms as them and us, and that this is a Christian, or a Copt, or a Muslim. All I see is Egyptians and citizens,” he said.

“We are the people’s government; we do not represent any trend.”

The cabinet reflects the precarious balance of power between the president, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the military, which retains broad powers after transferring control to Morsi.

The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party took four cabinet seats, including education and the key information minister post, which oversees state media.

Seven ministers will remain from the outgoing military appointed cabinet, including Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Said and Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr.

The line-up of the 35-member cabinet falls far short of the unity government that Morsi had initially said he would put together, bringing together political factions. Instead, the members were largely technocrats.

‘Lack of fresh faces’

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said the cabinet appeared to be a “compromise” between Morsi and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which was handed power after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year.

“What all of this shows is that the SCAF is still a very important political player in this country,” she said.

“The criticism is that this line-up lacks any fresh faces  and what’s needed in this country is very much fresh ideas. People are already talking about whether this line-up is Morsi’s choice, or the military’s choice.”

The cabinet includes only two women – one of them also a Christian – and signalled Morsi’s failure to give women and minority Christians more than the token representation they had under Mubarak’s 29-year rule.

It also does not include any of the iconic youth figures of the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak.

Kamal el-Ganzouri, the outgoing prime minister, became the first member of Morsi’s own presidential team when the president named him on Thursday as an adviser, according to state television.

Ganzouri, in his late 70s, also served as prime minister under Mubarak.

The little-known Qandil was irrigation minister in the outgoing cabinet before Morsi named him prime minister last week.

The appointment of Qandil, a self-described devout Muslim, has angered liberals and leftists who took part in the uprising against Mubarak.

Egyptian media have reported that he has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, something he has publicly denied.

Hotel attacked

Qandil said the cabinet will have to tackle the “enormous” economic and security challenges facing the country since Mubarak’s overthrow in February last year.

“The coming period is not easy, to say the least, and we are all in the same boat,” he said.

Tensions are mounting over the country’s tenuous security. One person was shot to death by police on Thursday when a crowd of hundreds went on a rampage against a luxury hotel on the Nile River in central Cairo.

The crowd threw firebombs at the hotel, smashed its lobby and set fire to 10 cars, a security official said.

Security forces fired tear gas at the crowd and opened fire, killing one person, the official said.

The crowd came from a slum located just behind the hotel, which is a twin-tower skyscraper complex that includes a glitzy shopping centre and offices.

Earlier in the day, several residents of the slum who had been hired by the hotel for protection had tried to get into the hotel to collect payments owed to them.

Police stopped them, an altercation ensued, and a policeman shot and wounded one of the men.

The larger crowd of nearly 500 returned later and attacked the hotel, the security official said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies