Egypt’s new Prime Minister, Hesham Qandil, recently announced the long-awaited names of thirty-three ministers who will make up Mohammed Mursi’s cabinet.
The appointments included five ministers affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, four of whom were given the key ministerial posts of information, higher education, housing, and labor. The fifth was named Minister of State for Youth.
Seven members of the outgoing military-backed government, including the foreign, finance, and culture ministers, kept their jobs, perhaps in an attempt to achieve stability in the transition.
Also keeping his post was the defense minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who served in this role for twenty years under Mubarak and was Egypt’s military ruler for seventeen months after Mubarak’s ouster. Several weeks ago, the military proclaimed it would make the decision of who was appointed to this post and neither Morsi nor Qandil showed any resistance on this front.
It is still not clear what role the military will play in the upcoming government, though Mursi has called for SCAF to return to its defense post, leaving the decision-making and leadership roles in the hands of the newly appointed government.
Meanwhile, figures from the uprisings that led to Hosni Mubarak’s ouster were left out of the new cabinet and no other political factions were included, including Salafists . Only two women and one Coptic Christian were appointed in what have been labeled token posts, disappointing hopes that Mursi and Qandil would fulfill their pledge to include a woman and Coptic Christian in key cabinet posts.
As of 2011, women in Egypt make up over 48 percent and Christians make up over 10 percent of Egypt’s total population, numbers that are incongruous with their limited participation in the new government.
The choice of Muslim Brotherhood members as heads of core ministries may be in anticipation of the next set of parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of 2012. This comes after the first set of elections—which seated a Muslim Brotherhood majority in late 2011—was invalidated by the military and a supporting court ruling in June that decreed a third of the members of the new assembly were illegally elected.
With control over key posts, the Muslim Brotherhood will likely exercise influence over the state media and the country’s universities, and have greater access to youth and labor unions, who are traditionally dominated by leftist and liberal groups.
The announcement came after delays from the initial deadline of July 26th and after several days of protests in response to water shortages and electricity cuts. Under the pressure of an urgent and growing economic crisis and in the midst of renewed sectarian violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims, there is an urgent need for leadership and stability in a continued quest to realize the inciting demands of the revolution, summarized in the revolutionary slogan, “Bread, freedom, and social justice!”
Prime Minister Qandil has said that the new government will work toward realizing these goals and that as Egyptians, they are all in the same boat, referring to the new government as “the people’s government” and reiterating that it doesn’t belong to any particular faction.
Mohammed Mursi was sworn in on June 30th after facing a controversial run-off election against Ahmed Shafiq, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.