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A man waits to deliver his letter requesting for help from Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi, as he sits near a military police officer in front of the presidential palace in Cairo
Sworn in as Egypt's president on 30 June, Mohamed Mursi put in his first day of work the following day, albeit without some of the powers traditionally invested in the office of president.
Mursi held a meeting with Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, requesting El-Ganzouri's government remain until a new cabinet is formed. Later on 1 July he met with the cabinet, including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) head Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, attending in his capacity as minister of defence.
According to Mursi's spokesperson Yasser Ali "there is no timetable for El-Ganzouri's government": sources close to Mursi's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), however, say the cabinet is unlikely to remain beyond two weeks.
"The nature of the new government is clear in the president's mind," said Ali. "We are now in the process of selecting the people who will be responsible for different portfolios." The president's spokesman stressed no one has yet been contacted to head the new cabinet.
Speculation is rife over who that might be. Farouk El-Okda, the governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), has been suggested as a possible prime minister. He met with Mursi on 2 July, lending grist to the rumour mill. According to Ali, discussion was limited to economic issues.
Mohamed El-Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said publicly that he has had no discussions over any possible government post -- a statement affirmed by Mursi's spokesman Ali. Officials from the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, however, said on 2 July that they had informed Mursi's presidential team that they, along with several other political forces, would like to see El-Baradei head the new government.
FJP sources say that the party does not intend to dominate the new government, though Saad El-Husseini, head of the dissolved People's Assembly Budget Committee and a leading member of the FJP, said somewhat confusingly that "the FJP will not be a majority in the new government, but most portfolios will be held by its officials".
"The new prime minister," said El-Husseini, will be a national figure who has a proven record and is a committed patriot."
Leading FJP official Helmi El-Gazzar was more specific than El-Husseini regarding the composition of the cabinet.
"The FJP will take 40 per cent of the portfolios, the lion's share but not a majority," said El-Gazzar. "Mursi's new cabinet could also include many young faces, especially from movements that supported Mursi during his presidential campaign."
"President Mursi wants to form a revolutionary government capable of achieving the long-term goals of the 25 January Revolution."
Several political forces have said they have offered lists of possible candidates to the new president. 6 April movement spokesperson Tarek El-Khouli said the group had proposed Hazem El-Biblawi, a former finance minister and vocal advocate of the free market-economy, as Mursi's first prime minister. "We also suggested that Coptic economist Samir Morcos be selected as vice president," said El-Khouli.
FJP sources say party members are expected to take control of the finance, industry, justice and health portfolios. El-Husseini is expected to become minister of finance; Hussein Ibrahim, FJP spokesman in the People's Assembly, to be minister of state for parliamentary affairs; and Mohamed El-Beltagui is mooted as a possible minister of health. Sobhi Saleh, the FJP's deputy chairman of the People's Assembly Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, is slated to become minister of justice.
Many analysts believe Mursi has already cut a deal with SCAF to retain Tantawi as defence minister and Mohamed Ibrahim as minister of interior.
"Even if he decided to change Ibrahim he will not choose an FJP figure as interior minister," says El-Gazzar. The post is too sensitive, and "many believe that a Brotherhood figure would use it to settle old scores with the security forces".
While some commentators suggest SCAF has reserved the right to appoint the foreign minister El-Gazzar insists Mursi will have a free hand in assigning the portfolio. Essam El-Erian, chairman of the outgoing parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, and a longtime Brotherhood leader, is probably the leading contender. (see pp. 2-5)