Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq continued, for the third day running, trying to put together his new cabinet, which he optimistically boasted would meet with widespread public approval. The new cabinet, which is to include a smattering of members of the opposition, was supposed to be announced “within hours” two days ago. But, for the first time in decades, offers of cabinet posts are being declined, forcing the prime minister to look further afield for candidates.
Among the more surprising second choices, according to sources, has been that of Mohamed Abdel-Moneim El-Sawy, the businessman owner and manager of the El-Sawy Cultural Wheal, for the post of minister of culture, after prominent writer and poet, Farouk Gweida declined to accept.
Confirmed posts in the new government include former leading member of the Democratic Front Party, lawyer Yehia El-Gammal as deputy prime minister, leading Wafd member Munir Fakhry Abdel-Nour as minister of tourism, and prominent leftist economist Gouda Abdel-Khalek as minister of social solidarity.
According to sources close to the consultations on the government reshuffle, the post of minister of manpower was still the subject of contention, with the leadership of the government-controlled Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions lobbying hard to have the post filled by one of their members, while labor activists, who are in the process of setting up a new independent trade union federation, are fighting hard in the opposite direction. They insist that the EFTU is an anachronistic creature of authoritarianism, is hated by the nation’s workers and that it has been made defunct by the revolution. They have suggested instead the name of an independent scholar, specialized in labor issues, who has worked for the International Labor ‘Organization (ILO).
Even more significant have been leaks indicating that the post of foreign minister is not as secure as has been widely held in the past days. Ahmed Abul-Gheit, a former ambassador at the United Nations, has held the foreign minister’s post since 2004. And though believed to be unpopular among the general public, he kept his post in the Shafiq government. It was also believed that the military council, which has been running the country since Mubarak’s ouster from power, was resolved not to touch the foreign ministry for the time being, apparently so as to avoid speculation on post-Mubarak Egyptian foreign policy.
It was being whispered today, however, that many of the new entrants to the cabinet, including the designated deputy prime minister have been strongly urging Prime Minister Shafiq to replace Abul-Gheit.