Egyptian Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez, assigned to his post earlier in the year by now-ousted president Mohamed Morsi, remains the highest contender for the job of prime minister in the interim phase that started Wednesday evening when — in the presence of opposition, civil and religious leaders — army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced the end of Morsi's rule.
Ramez, a career banker with a solid reputation for "progressive" economic choices and with considerable inroads in the international financial and economic scene, is said to be the favourite choice of El-Sisi, who according to the sources who spoke Saturday morning to Ahram Online is keen to have the man who trusted and assigned by Morsi to send a message that the new administration in Egypt will not exclude the choices and members of Muslim Brotherhood rule.
Ramez, according to official and independent economic sources, is also the contender with the widest recommendations from within the business community. His choice as premier is also perceived by the advisors to Interim President Adly Mansour, as well as those to El-Sisi, as sending “a strong message of stable investment policies” — something said to be “particularly crucial at the moment where Egypt is keen to attract as much investment as possible.”
Ramez had expressed initial reluctance at taking a foremost role, in view of the daunting economic challenges Egypt has been facing since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 through the ouster of Morsi Wednesday. He is worried, according to a close associate, of the “political confusion and its possible repercussions on economic choices.” “But he is still being pressured, and if pressured hard enough he would take the assignment. We have to remember that he was also reluctant to accept the job of Central Bank Governor under Morsi when the challenges were much higher,” the same source said.
Three other contenders include Kamal El-Ganzouri, a former prime minister twice — once under the rule of Mubarak and again under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces following the ouster of Mubarak and into the rule of Morsi. El-Ganzouri, according to official sources, is a safe bureaucrat who knows how to manage state matters. “He holds considerable public appreciation in general, but the trouble is that he is perceived to subscribe to rather outdated economic choices. His name was considered as a replacement for [Morsi’s prime minister Hesham] Kandil,” said an official source.
He added: “It is also feared that the choice of El-Ganzouri would not offer a message of 'moving forward' for revolutionary forces.”
Farouk Al-Oqda, the predecessor of Ramez, is also considered as another "safe choice" by the state administration in view of his "hands-on bureaucratic skills and economic style." Ahmed Darwish, a "mild Islamist" and minister in the Cabinet of Ahmed Nazif under Mubarak, with considerable bureaucratic experience, is being considered.
In a longer list of candidates there is the name of Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading figure of the National Salvation Front. But according to official sources who spoke to Ahram Online, "the country's leadership" at the moment is keen to avoid offering top jobs to Muslim Brotherhood opponents, for fear of being misread as having removed Morsi to give power to the opposition.
The name of prominent Egyptian-American economist Mohamed El-Eryan, who is US-based, has also been proposed, albeit with some apprehension in view of his years away from Egypt that inevitably influenced his Arabic skills, along with some lack of awareness of the inroads of Egyptian bureaucracy. In one reading, there is a possibility "to match El-Eryan with a down-to-earth Egyptian bureaucrat like Darwish."
The name of Fayza Abul-Naga, former minister of planning and international cooperation, and previously minister of state for foreign affairs, is also on the long list. Abul-Naga, however, is considered as a non-starter with Washington who never digested her "nationalist style." She is also problematic with civil society, which perceives her as being behind the controversial 2012 "NGOs case."
As a "symbolic" figurehead, Nabil El-Arabi, Arab League secretary general, was proposed to El-Sisi but is not favoured in view of his old age, deteriorating health and reputation for lack of administrative skills.
Sources say there are three criteria that will decide the choice of the next prime minister: that he or she should have some form of association with the ousted regime of Mohamed Morsi; that she or he has a solid economic and financial reputation; that he or she can generate home and foreign confidence in pursuing economic policies that at once promote the cause of social justice and that of economic prosperity.
In the words of one official: “Of all the circulated names, Ramez is the one who fits these criteria most.”