Egypt's Sisi selects Petroleum Minister Sherif Ismail to become PM, form new cabinet
Ahram Online, , Saturday 12 Sep 2015
Constitutional law expert says newly elected parliament will have to vote on new cabinet's programme

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has instructed Sherif Ismail, the minister of petroleum in the outgoing cabinet of Ibrahim Mahlab, to form a new cabinet within a week.

Ibrahim Mahlab submitted his cabinet's resignation to El-Sisi on Saturday.

Sherif Ismail had occupied the position of petroleum minister since July 2013.

Mahlab's cabinet had faced a number of public challenges in recent weeks.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Salah Helal was forced to resign and then arrested on charges of corruption.

There had also been uncofirmed media reports that other ministers in Mahlab's cabinet might also be investigated on corruption charges.

Following the agriculture minister's resignation, media reports suggested that other ministers might be replaced.

However, the cabinet insisted as late as as Wednesday that there were no plans for a cabinet reshuffle in the immediate future.

Protests by thousands of government employees against a controversial law regulating the civil service have also continued to dominate headlines in recent weeks.

Who is Egypt's new prime minister?

Ismail is a mechanical engineer by trade.

He was born in July 1955, is married, and has two children.

Ismail graduated from from the faculty of engineering at Ain Shams University in 1978, and started his career at the multinational oil company Mobil.

In 1979 he moved to the Egyptian company Engineering for the Petroleum and Process Industries (Enppi), before joining its board of directors.

Ismail served as deputy minister of petroleum in charge of oil and gas operations from 2000 to 2005.

In 2005 he became the chairman of the Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS).

From 2007 to 2013, he served as chairman of the Ganoub El-Wadi Petroleum Holding Company (GANOPE).

Ismail had served as petroleum minister since July 2013, first under Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, and then under Ibrahim Mahlab, who was appointed prime minister in February 2014.

In August, during the tenure of Ismail as petroleum minister, Italy's Eni announced the discovery of gas reserves of up to 30 trillion cubic feet in the sea off the north coast of Egypt, one of the largest gas finds ever in Egypt and in the Mediterranean.

Also during his tenure in July 2014, the government raised fuel prices by up to 78 percent in order to cut fuel subsidies by up to LE44 billion, part of a wider government plan to reduce its budget deficit from 12.8 percent to 10 percent of GDP.

"The decision to appoint Sherif Ismail to the premiership is right on point, as it comes at a time when Egypt needs to focus on economic reform, in which reforming the energy sector is a vital parameter," Osama Kamal, a former petroleum minister, told Ahram Online on Saturday.

"Ismail was successful in managing a number of key issues, including repaying the government's overdues to the petroleum sector, satisfying local energy demand and managing new discoveries," Kamal added.

New cabinet to face parliament vote

The new cabinet is being formed a few months before the establishment of the long-awaited parliament, elections for which conclude in December. Given this, constitutional law expert Shawky El-Sayed believes that the new cabinet will need to submit its programme to parliament for approval.

"The elected parliament will vote on the programme of the appointed cabinet," El-Sayed told Ahram Online. "There will be two scenarios following the vote; either parliament will vote in favour or it will vote against the programme."

He further explained that if a majority of MPs vote against the programme, they will be tasked with nominating a new prime minister, according to the Egyptian constitution.

Egypt, which has been without a parliament since 2012, will hold multi-stage parliamentary elections between October and December.

According to Article 146 of the 2014 constitution, while the president has the right to appoint a prime minister, parliament must approve any new cabinet through a vote of confidence in its proposed programme.

The article stipulates that "if his government does not win the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives within thirty days at the most, the president shall appoint a prime minister who is nominated by the party or the coalition that holds the majority or the highest number of seats in the House of Representatives."

El-Sayed further explained that If the government of the prime minister selected by the majority in parliament fails on a subsequent occasion to win the confidence of the majority of MPs then parliament shall be dissolved, according to the same article of the constitution.