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Revolutionary group says Egypt cabinet 'fails to live up to expectations'

The National Front for the Protection of the Revolution, formed to help Mohamed Morsi get into office, will issue a statement Sunday contesting the composition of the President's first government

Dina Ezzat, Sunday 5 Aug 2012
The National Front for Protection of the Revolution and President Mohamed Morsi at a press conference on 22 June (Photo: Ikhwan Online)
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The National Front for the Protection of the Revolution is set to issue a communiqué on Sunday criticising the composition of the new government.

The group – consisting of several prominent political figures – was formed on 22 June to support Morsi during the presidential elections. At the time, many believed there was a real threat of vote rigging in favour of his rival Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Hosni Mubarak.

To follow up on the most urgent matters faced by the president, the National Front has formed several committees; one to propose names for Cabinet membership and the presidential team, another to follow up on military prisoners and a third one to oversee the reshuffle of the Constituent Assembly promised one month earlier by Morsi.

The text of the communiqué is still being negotiated, according to figures at the National Front. Agreed upon, however, is a basic message, namely an expression of dismay at the composition of the new government that they say has failed to impress many.

The National Front had previously called into question President Morsi's choice of Hisham Qandil as prime minister. From the perspective of those in the Front, the composition of the newly-formed cabinet adds salt to wound.

For Heba Raouf Ezzat, professor of political science at Cairo University and member of the National Front, this government is anything but promising. "This is not what we were hoping for. As civil society we will do our role in monitoring the performance of this government and in calling on the president to take the necessary measures if it does not live up to our expectations," she said.

The first Mohamed Morsi cabinet was sworn in on Thursday following long-winded negotiations and political deals. The end result brings together a group of ministers who served in the outgoing government of Kamal El-Ganzouri, top government officials from the Mubarak regime, representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood political arm, Freedom and Justice Party, and some nominally independent but ultimately Islamist figures.

"When you have the advisor of Hatem El-Gebali, Mubarak's last minister of health and the owner of several private health service projects, when you keep the minister of finance, and when you assign a minister of civil aviation whose performance was subject to wide criticism within the aviation sector, you are sending a very negative message," said political analyst Mohamed Agati.

According to Agati's analysis, "the fact that the new government has nine members who one way or the other subscribe to the Mubarak state is very confusing." Agati further questioned why three government positions that "should by definition be non-partisan, including that of the ministry of information", went to the FJP.

What this government basically offers, Agati argues, is "a perpetuation of the endless combination of Islamists and the Mubarak State; it has not ended."

In the analysis of Mohamed Abdel-Salam, a senior researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, the composition of this government "indicates that the transitional phase has not come to an end – it is being extended."

"This is not a government of a post-revolution president; this is a government that is clearly made to manage state affairs pending a reshuffle that seems to be coming once a new parliament is elected," Abdel-Salam said.

The election of a new parliament, according to a number of informed sources, is being considered for December of this year.

"The choice of ministers shows that things will keep running more or less as they have been, except in the few sectors that the FJP has chosen to start acquiring like the ministry of information," said Abdel-Salam. He added that, "President Morsi has not made up his mind to start acting yet. He has chosen to put the government on autopilot for the most part as he has promoted senior officials from most ministries to head these ministries."

Agati has a similar view, suggesting that, "this is a government that is meant to implement the '100 days plan' of the president that relate to improving the quality of security, health services and garbage collection but this is not a government that is designed to implement a leap in economy and development."

Both Agati and Abdel-Salam questioned the intentions that prompted Morsi to opt for a "patched" government might be a prelude to an all out or a predominantly FJP government. "This government would not be able to offer big deliverables and this would be the argument to justify the composition of a predominantly FJP government," said Agati.

Meanwhile, according to a close advisor to Morsi who preferred not to be named, "the president tried very hard to have a government that is not exclusively FJP. Many said that 50 per cent of the cabinet seats would go to the FJP and he proved all these accusations to be false."

"There were so many rumours that the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP would infiltrate and control all the ministries and the president wanted to prove these rumours wrong," the advisor explained. As such, the selection of top officials of several ministries to head the respective ministries "was deliberate."

Whether this is a temporary government or not, Morsi's advisor would not answer. "Possibly after the election of a new parliament there may be a cabinet reshuffle. It is too early to tell who would stay from this government and who would go," he stated.

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