Mursi's first government
The first freely elected president is in intensive negotiations ahead of naming a new cabinet, reports Gamal Essam El-Din
In a move unthinkable two years ago Mohamed Mursi, who will take the constitutional oath as Egypt's president on Saturday, moved into the presidential palace on 25 June, occupying the offices of the ousted president Hosni Mubarak as he began work on forming his first cabinet.
Political forces have called on Mursi to form a coalition government to help dispel doubts that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to monopolise power. Indeed, some are touting Mohamed El-Baradei, the ex-chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as a possible premier. His appointment as prime minister, they argue, would act as a guarantee that Egypt will remain a civilian state and send a message to the outside world that Egypt is determined to become a model of peaceful coexistence between moderate Islam and secularism.
A day before the official announcement of the results of the presidential poll El-Baradei met with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and minister of defence. What was said at the meeting has not been made public, though many press reports speculated that Tantawi had either sounded out El-Baradei on his willingness to head a new government or perhaps mediate a deal between the Muslim Brotherhood and other political forces.
"I stressed to SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood the immediate need for mediation to avoid explosion. The time to act is now," El-Baradei tweeted on 21 June.
The relationship between El-Baradei and the Brotherhood has soured in recent months. When he retired as IAEA head and returned to Cairo in February 2010, El-Baradei reached out to the Muslim Brotherhood. The group helped him gather one million signatures for a political roadmap aimed at amending the constitution and strengthening freedoms.
El-Baradei's relationship with the group worsened following the revolution which toppled Mubarak in February 2012. He criticised the Brotherhood for pressing for parliamentary elections ahead of the drafting of a new constitution, and came close to accusing the Islamists of hijacking a popular revolution to serve their own, partisan ends. For their part, Brotherhood officials attacked El-Baradei's proposal that political forces agree a set of inviolable constitutional principles. On Tuesday, Karem Radwan, a member of the Brotherhood's Shura (consultative) Council, denied that any deal had been struck with El-Baradei to head Mursi's first cabinet.
Other candidates for the post who would muster the support of liberals include Hazem El-Biblawi, economist and a former minister of finance. El-Biblawi is a member of the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party which espouses a mixed ideology of market economy liberalism and social justice. Ziad Bahaaeddin, the former chairman of the General Investment Authority and the son of late liberal political journalist Ahmed Bahaaeddin, has also been mentioned.
While FJP officials have stressed that Mursi is willing to accept a majority of non-Muslim Brotherhood members in the cabinet, some political analysts question the sincerity of the assertion.
"The same thing happened with the People's Assembly. FJP officials said they would prefer a non-Brotherhood parliamentary speaker," says Abdallah El-Senawi, the former editor of the Nasserist Arabi newspaper. "And then the FJP's Saad El-Katatni became parliamentary speaker and the Brotherhood occupied the chairs of 13 of parliament's 19 committees."
And of the non-Brotherhood faces Mursi will appoint, says El-Senawi, many will be drawn from the Salafis who supported him.
"I believe it will end up with Islamists occupying all ministerial positions, with the exception of the four 'sovereign' -- interior, foreign affairs, justice and defence -- which will be filled by SCAF," says El-Senawi, "though there is a possibility Nasserist Hamdi Qandil could get the Ministry of Information; novelist Alaa El-Aswani the Ministry of Culture; and political commentator Hassan Nafaa the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs."
Mursi's schedule after official swearing-in on Saturday will also include appointing a vice president, which under the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration he must do within 60 days.
Mursi said in a press conference on 22 June that he was holding talks with former presidential election candidates over the position of vice president, adding that he intended to appoint three deputies.
Sources inside the Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh campaign said this week that Abul-Fotouh had suggested the leader of the Islamist Wasat Party Abul-Ela Madi as a vice presidential candidate.
Other sources say Hamdeen Sabahi, the former Nasserist presidential candidate, suggested two possible vice presidents: former Coptic MP and member of the nationalist Karama Party Amin Iskandar, and liberal nationalist law professor and co-founder of Al-Dostour Party Hossam Eissa.