After painful search, new Egypt PM will announce full cabinet on Wednesday

Zeinab El Gundy, Monday 5 Dec 2011

Prime Minister El-Ganzouri who faced rejections from potential candidates for executive and denunciations from protesters for two weeks will unveil new cabinet with minister of interior tomorrow

PM El Ganzoury
PM El Ganzoury "Photo: Internet"

For two weeks now, newly-appointed Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri has been struggling to form a new government at a critical time. On Sunday night, however, it was announced in the media that El-Ganzouri had finished forming his cabinet, except for the minister of interior.

Then, on Monday morning, El-Ganzouri announced that the entire new cabinet, which is being labelled in the official media as the “national salvation government”, had been selected. The prime minister also added that the new government and its ministers will be announced on Wednesday. 

According to various sources, 11 ministers from the former cabinet under Essam Sharaf will continue in their ministerial position, including Minister of Electricity Hassan Younes, Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul Naga, Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Kamel Amr.

It is unclear yet how many ministers or ministries will be in the new government as there are contradicting reports about the return of old ministries like youth and sports, as well as newly-founded ministries like the ministry of care for the revolution’s injured and killed.

Yet it is clear that El-Ganzouri has faced many challenges in forming his new government. The clearest challenge is the rejection by revolutionary political groups and parties of the new government, insisting on their demand for a new national salvation government with full authority, representing all political powers in the country.

Another challenge El-Ganzouri is facing is that several prominent figures have already rejected ministerial positions in his cabinet, including Essam Sharaf’s former political advisor Moatez Abdel Fatah, who turned down the ministry of youth, and former minister of environmental affairs Nadia Makram Ebid, who declined the offer to take up her former post. 

Perhaps the clearest obstacle facing El-Ganzouri is to find candidates for ministerial positions who are not rejected by one sector or another.

Sayyed El-Bastawisi, a retired undersecretary in the ministry of manpower and immigration, was nominated to become the minister last Saturday; yet the overwhelming rejection of him by labour unions and activists made El-Ganzouri rethink his decision and decide to search for another candidate.

The regional labour union in Sadat Industrial City issued a statement denouncing the choice of El-Bastawisi, calling him “the enemy of the workers”, while famous labour union activist and head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Kamal Abu Aita accused him of working against labour, threatening to start a sit-in at the ministry to object to the appointment. 

Minister of agriculture in Essam Sharaf’s cabinet, Salah Youssef, was nominated to continue in his place, yet the rejection of the workers at the ministry and their threat to protest led El-Ganzouri to change his mind again.  The employees of the ministry of agriculture complained to the media, as well as to the prime minister, that Youssef used to hire employees from outside the ministry, with no experience, for high positions.

On Monday El-Ganzouri met with Saad Nasser, the former aide to minister of agriculture, as a potential candidate for the minister’s job, while Salah Youssef reportedly did not show up at his ministry office on Monday. 

Still, this is nothing compared to finding a leader for the ministry of interior amidst all the criticism it is currently facing and the demands for complete reform inside the institution.

In the past two weeks there have been several police generals named as potential candidates who were shadowed by bad human rights records, causing anger among human rights, revolution activists and supporters. El-Ganzouri made it clear that the minister of interior will not be a civilian. 

It has been confirmed that Minister of Information Osama Heikal will be replaced in the new government. News reports on Monday confirmed that he had already left his office in the ministry and that the prime minister had started to meet potential candidates for the position, including Ahmed Anis, the chairman of Egyptian satellite company Nile Sat. 

Heikal’s performance has been criticised in recent months following Egyptian state televisions coverage of the clashes around the Maspero building in October, and the latest Tahrir clashes. Heikal’s dismissal has been a demand of the protesters in Tahrir for months.

Now that El-Ganzouri has decided on his cabinet, the prime minister will have to face a far harder challenge: convincing the public to accept a government that is already being criticised. A sit-in staged outside the cabinet offices near Tahrir Square to prevent the new prime minister from entering his office will not help much in making the public consider giving the 76-year-old prime minister a real chance.

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