Choice of new PM Hisham Qandil divides Egypt's political class

Ahram Online , Tuesday 24 Jul 2012

President Morsi's appointment of little-known former irrigation minister Hisham Qandil as new prime minister proves controversial with politicians, activists

Hisham Kandil
Egyptian minister of water resources and irrigation in the outgoing, military-appointed government, Hisham Kandil poses for a portrait in Cairo (Photo: AP)

President Mohamed Morsi's decision on Tuesday to appoint Hisham Qandil as Egypt's new prime minister has provoked mixed reactions from the country's politicians and activists.

A former irrigation minister in the post-revolution governments of Esam Sharaf and Kamal El-Ganzouri, Qandil is not formally affiliated with any Egyptian political parties or groups.

Mostafa El-Naggar, a liberal MP in the dissolved People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament), told Ahram Online that it was too early to judge the appointment.

"We need to know the standards by which Qandil was chosen. We need to know his record, his history and performance in previous positions," El-Naggar said.

He criticised those who were already judging the new prime minister based on his Islamist background.

Independent activist Ahmed Imam, who is amongst those calling for a united front with Morsi to counter the military's influence in politics, said he did not have a view on the new prime minister.

"I still do not know anything about Qandil and therefore I cannot judge," he said.

Several political figures and activists, including Imam, declared their support for Morsi upon his electoral win in June after he confirmed Brotherhood members would not form the majority in his new government.

Leftist activist Wael Khalil, who joined the united front and was nominated for Morsi's presidential team, told Ahram Online it was too early to judge Qandil.

"I can't trust those who praise him or those who attack him so soon," said Khalil.

However, Khalil was more critical of the way Qandil was appointed than the choice itself.

"We need to know the criteria by which Qandil was chosen. We need more transparency."

Morsi should be transparent or "he will be following in Mubarak's footsteps, who took sudden and shocking decisions without providing explanations," Khalil added.

"Egyptians should know Morsi's plan and whether he aims to achieve national unity or merely implement the Brotherhood's renaissance programme," he concluded.

On the other hand, Essam Shiha of the liberal Wafd Party criticised Morsi's appointment of Qandil because the president had promised to appoint a non-Islamist as prime minister.

Moreover, Shiha said Egypt needs an economic expert in such a position, a qualification which Qandil lacks.

The Wafd Party had refused to accept any posts in a Morsi government because it wanted it to be composed only of Brotherhood members so the people could more clearly assess its performance, Shiha said.

The best alternative, according to Shiha, would be for Morsi to appoint a government of technocrats.

Qandil in fact proposed a government of technocrats after his appointment as premier.

On a more positive note, liberal youth activist Esraa Abdel-Fatah said via Twitter:

"Thank God Hisham Qandil is young and we are now seeing a prime minister in his late 40s."

Khaled Said, spokesperson for the Salafist Front, said via Twitter:

"A young government is better than an elderly one. Successful negotiations with Nile Basin countries and meeting the demands of protesters at the irrigation ministry are amongst the achievements of Hisham Qandil."

Saad El-Hosainy of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) told Ikhwan Online that his party backed Morsi's choice of Qandil as prime minister.

"The FJP will cooperate with the prime minister and the new government to help them accomplish their mission," El-Hosainy said.

The FJP, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, is expected to hold 30 to 50 per cent of the positions in the new government, while the Brotherhood's deputy leader Khairat El-Shater is expected to hold the economic portfolio and become deputy prime minister, according to media reports.

President Morsi was widely criticised for taking too long to form a new government after his inauguration on 30 June.

Several names had been proposed as potential prime ministers, including former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei, former Egyptian Social Democratic Party MP Ziad Bahaaeddin, central bank chief Mahmoud Abul-Eyoun and former minister and member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Hazem El-Beblawi. All have denied they were offered the position.

This article has been amended. It had erroneously referred to Mostafa El-Naggar as a 'former Muslim Brotherhood MP'  in a previous version.

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