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Egypt opposition says president's cabinet reshuffle 'changes nothing'

Long-awaited govt reshuffle, which sees appointment of 9 new ministers, fails to satisfy opposition figures who claim move is mere camouflage for 'Brotherhoodisation' of state

Ahram Online , Tuesday 7 May 2013
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Egyptian reform leader Mohammed El Baradei, center, speaks during a press conference following the meeting of the National Salvation Front, as former Egyptian presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, left, and former Egyptian Foreign Minister and presidential candidate, Amr Moussa, right, listen in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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On Tuesday morning, nine new government ministers were sworn into office in front of President Mohamed Morsi in the second such cabinet reshuffle since Morsi's assumption of the presidency in June of last year.

A ministerial reshuffle had been a primary demand of Egypt's political opposition, which had specifically called for the dismissal of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud. All three ministers, however, have remained at their posts.   

Opposition forces had also cited the need for a more "neutral" cabinet, the performance of which will be crucial within the context of upcoming parliamentary elections.

Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, welcomed the reshuffle, saying that the FJP "reiterates its full support for the government."

The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) umbrella group, however, stated that the reshuffle was a "disappointment" to Egypt's political forces, especially in regard to Qandil's maintaining his post.  

Speaking to Al Jazeera, NSF spokesman Khaled Dawoud stressed the importance of changing the ministers who have a direct bearing on the electoral process, including those of interior, information and supply.  

Leading NSF member and liberal Conference Party head Amr Mousa, for his part, said: "The reshuffle doesn't change anything; there will be a need for another such action in the near future."

In a press statement, Moussa, who served as ousted president Hosni Mubarak's foreign minister throughout the 1990s before heading up the Arab League for ten years, asked: "Doesn't the reshuffle indicate another move towards the total 'brotherhoodisation' of the state?"

Three new ministers are members of the Muslim Brotherhood; Investment Minister Yehia Hamed Abdel-Samie Hamed, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Ahmed Mohamed Amr Darag and Ahmed El-Gizawi, the minister of Agriculture.

Egypt's liberal Free Egyptians Party, meanwhile, asserted in a statement that "No cabinet reshuffle has taken place."

"This is not the reshuffle that Egyptians demanded," party spokesman Shehab Wagih said, adding the changes were "only camouflage for change while those who really dictate how things are run behind the scenes are those who will remain in control."

Wagih alleged that Muslim Brotherhood second-in-command Khairat El-Shater and Muslim Brotherhood businessman Hassan Malek were in charge of the country's economic files, while Morsi's foreign policy advisor, Essam El-Haddad, was in charge of foreign affairs.

The April 6 Youth Movement, for its part, stressed that the cabinet changes represented a significant blow to Salafist and other non-Brotherhood Islamist groups who had once been allies of President Morsi.

In a press statement, April 6 co-founder Mohamed Adel stated that Tuesday's reshuffle was a reflection of Egypt's ongoing political crisis, especially in regards to the finance portfolio, the minister of which has been changed twice since Morsi's assumption of the presidency.

Adel added that, despite the ministerial changes, Egypt's economic crisis was only getting worse due to ministers' inability to cooperate and satisfy the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concerning a proposed $4.8 billion loan to Egypt.

Shaaban Abdel-Alim, a leading member of the Salafist Nour Party, which has recently joined the opposition against President Morsi and the Brotherhood, stated: "The reshuffle means nothing; it does not bring about any changes to the current situation, but has rather pulled the country into deeper crisis."

Essam Shebl, a leading member of the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party, voiced his wish that the coming period in Egypt would be more promising than the last, but that, given the current government and its decision-making process, he did not think such improvement was possible.

Shebl noted that the Wasat Party had been among the first to object to Qandil's appointment as prime minister, but stressed that the Morsi-appointed premier had nevertheless remained at his post against the will of numerous critics.

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