Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 August 2011
Issue No. 1060
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

New governors, old policies?

The list of provincial governors sworn in on Monday night suggests that being perceived as a safe pair of hands remains as important as ever in securing appointment, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Click to view caption
The new governors while taking the oath earlier this week

After a two-week delay Prime Minister Essam Sharaf finally announced a new list of provincial governors. The reshuffle has drawn criticism from many activists, not least the youth movements of the 25 January Revolution.

The new appointments are dominated by ex- army and police officers and include senior members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP).

Presidential hopeful Mohamed El-Baradei has branded the reshuffle "a setback".

"Out of 27 governors 18 are retired army and police major generals," said El-Baradei. "What this reshuffle underlines is that many of the ousted regime's pro-security policies are still in place."

He argued that the change of faces did not include a change of direction, and criticised the failure to appoint either women or Copts.

Eleven new governors were appointed in the reshuffle, and four serving governors moved to new provinces.

Most controversial was the appointment of former Major General Serageddin El-Roubi as governor of Minya. A long-time head of Egypt's Interpol office, El-Roubi has been accused by fugitive businessman Ashraf El-Saad of demanding a huge bribe in return for charges being dropped against El-Saad.

El-Roubi brushed aside the allegation, saying he had issued several arrest orders naming El-Saad who now wants to take revenge.

The 6 April Movement said that while it viewed El-Roubi's appointment as a setback it was willing to cooperate with him "if he devotes his energy to developing Minya".

Former army major general Sayed El-Borai has been appointed governor of Assiut while in Qena the return of its old governor Adel Labib was generally welcomed by citizens.

Labib, a former major general in the police, has also served as governor of Alexandria. There were protests in Qena in April when a Copt was appointed governor, with demonstrators asking for the return of Labib.

The Coalition of the 25 January Revolution argues that as "one of Mubarak's men and a former state security police officer Labib should be stripped from playing any public role". Labib has also been accused of complicity in the torture of the Salafi Sayed Bilal during his tenure as governor of Alexandria.

Alexandria's new governor Osama El-Fouli, dean of Alexandria University's Faculty of Law, was also the subject of criticism. El-Fouli was an active member of the NDP, and his appointment as dean is widely seen as a result of interference by the NDP and state security.

Tarek El-Mahdi, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), has been appointed governor of Wadi Al-Gadid. Following the collapse of the Mubarak regime El-Mahdi was given responsibility for running Egypt's Television and Radio Union.

Former army major general Salah El-Hamalawi becomes head of the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira, a relatively uncontroversial appointment, certainly when compared to the furore that greeted the appointment of Salah El-Maadawi, a leading light of the NDP, in neighbouring Daqahliya.

In Gharbiya the appointment of former judge Mohamed Abdel-Qader, who replaces one time police officer Mohamed El-Fakharani, was welcomed.

One of the biggest surprises came in Sharqiya, where opposition journalist Azzazzi Mohamed Azzazzi is now governor. Azzazzi is a regular contributor to leftist and opposition newspapers, including Al-Arabi, Al-Karama and Al-Osbou. Many have wondered what lies behind the appointment of a journalist with no experience in local administration. Azzazzi believes he was selected "because I belong to this governorate and because there is a growing trend that opposition figures should be represented in senior positions".

The replacement of Maher El-Domiati by judge Maher Beibars as governor of Beni Sweif played well locally. Residents of Beni Sweif had been shocked by allegations that El-Domiati had helped organise attacks on protesters in Tahrir Square on 2 February.

In Fayoum engineer Ahmed Ali Ahmed was appointed governor in place of former army major general Mahmoud Assem who now heads the Red Sea governorate.

In some governorates where no change was announced residents organised protests. In the north Nile Delta governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh, the 6 April Movement and the Coalition have demanded Ahmed Zaki Abdeen -- a longtime Mubarak official -- be removed.

"The appointments may fall short of the expectations of the revolution's youth movements," said Minister of Local Administration Mohamed Attia, "but we tried hard to ensure that new faces dominated the reshuffle.

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