Secularists fear FJP domination of Egypt's incoming government

Dina Samak , Friday 27 Jul 2012

As newly-appointed PM prepares to unveil cabinet appointments, political groups and civil society voice fears that Egypt's new cabinet will be dominated by Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Hisham Qandil
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi (C) meets with Water Minister Hisham Qandil at the presidential palace in Cairo (photo: Reuters)

In a few days, Egypt's new cabinet is expected to be announced. At least this is what newly-appointed Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said at a press conference Thursday, before he attended the final meeting of the cabinet of his predecessor, outgoing premier Kamal El-Ganzouri.

"The names nominated for each portfolio will be finalised and presented to President Mohamed Morsi by Friday," Qandil told attendees of Thursday's press gathering, adding that some posts had already been assigned.

On Wednesday, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said that the official announcement of the new government could be expected by the middle of next week.

Both Ali and Qandil confirmed that some ministers in Ganzouri's cabinet would remain, while others were expected to be replaced.

"No clear reasons have been given about why some ministers will leave their posts while others will stay. This is a clear violation of the people's right to know," said Emad Mubarak of Egyptian NGO the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).

The AFTE issued a statement on Wednesday criticising the way in which the president chose his first prime minister. The group also called for transparency, demanding that all state institutions should be committed to announcing their decisions and explaining clearly to the public why these decisions were made.

"Now Qandil – if he is really the one who chooses the ministers of his cabinet – is committing the same mistake," says Mubarak. "We are left trying to understand what is really going on from speculation and leaks. This, I say, is undemocratic."

For Mubarak and many others, the explanations given by Egypt's new premier are not convincing or reassuring.

Qandil, at his Thursday press conference, said that "some of the current ministers will be asked to stay after making sure they are willing to continue to work on achieving the president's electoral programme."

Morsi, who was the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, ran for the presidency under the Brotherhood's "Renaissance" programme, which was put together by the group's strongman and first-choice presidential candidate Khairat El-Shater. This implies that those ministers who agree to carry out the presidential project will have Brotherhood sympathies.

Qandil added that the new government should be formed of a homogeneous team "that can work together to achieve the demands of the revolution." This is widely understood to mean that that the president, prime minister and his administration must share the same political affiliations.

Both criteria have sparked fear within Egypt's political arena, with some political forces deciding not to participate in any government formed by Morsi and Qandil.

Emad Gad, of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, told Ahram Online Thursday that "the success of Qandil's government is the responsibility of Morsi as a president, his Freedom and Justice Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, there is no doubt that the coming government will represent the FJP and the Brotherhood's agenda."

For his part, Qandil, who describes himself as a devout Muslim, has repeatedly denied, since assuming the presidential post, that he belongs to any political Islamist group.

"I'm not a member of the Brotherhood and I was never a member of any political party," Qandil reiterated on Thursday, adding that the selection of his ministers would be based on the nominees' efficiency and competency, not on their political or religious affiliations.

Qandil also denied that there was a quota for FJP party members in the new government, affirming a similar statement posted on Twitter on Thursday by FJP Vice-Chairman Essam El-Erian, who also refuted claims that that he himself had been offered a portfolio.

This is despite the fact that the head of the Brotherhood's administrative office in Alexandria, Medhat El-Hadad, said Tuesday that ten ministerial posts had been set aside for FJP party members.

Furthermore, economist and FJP member Abdallah Shehata told Ahram Online Thursday that the ministers of trade and industry, finance, and planning would be chosen by the FJP, even if FJP members themselves were not appointed to the positions in question.

Shehata also affirmed that the newly-appointed prime minister had been on the list of preferred nominees that the FJP initially presented to the president.

Consequently, many believe that ministry appointments will not escape the domination of the Brotherhood and its political party.

Nevertheless, the new cabinet is expected to include at least two Copts from the Ganzouri government: Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour and Scientific Research Minister Nadia Zakhary, both of whom met with Qandil on Wednesday.

Other indications show that veteran Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Abul-Naga, who has held the post for 11 years, will not be reappointed after she announced Thursday that she would not be a part of Qandil's cabinet. The military council's "strong woman" had been expected to remain in the position despite criticism from various political groups.

Ultimately, Egypt will have to wait until Friday to see whether the Brotherhood's FJP will enjoy the lion's share of the coming government.  

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