New cabinet, new woes
No sooner had the government of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil been sworn in on 2 August than it faced a barrage of criticism from across political spectrum.
The National Front for the Protection of the Revolution, formed on 22 June to support Islamist President Mohamed Mursi during the presidential elections, said the Qandil government failed to live up to expectations.
"Eight of Qandil's ministers served under the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak and the majority of Islamists who have joined the government come from the rank-and-file of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) -- the political arm of Muslim Brotherhood," said a statement issued by the front.
The Salafist Nour Party joined in the criticism. "The Qandil government is far from being the national unity government Egypt desperately needs," it said.
Many political analysts believe the appointment of the new government brings an end to the long honeymoon between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. Mohamed Youssri, the Salafist preacher who had earlier -- prematurely, as it turned out -- announced his acceptance of the post of minister of waqfs (religious endowments), complained that "the Qandil government shows the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to monopolise political life."
Even some high-profile FJP officials appeared unhappy. Leading FJP MP Mohamed El-Beltagui denounced the appointment of outgoing prime minister Kamal El-Ganzouri as a special advisor to president Mohamed Mursi.
"This is not a good step," he said. "Everyone knows the Ganzouri government helped bring about the dissolution of the People's Assembly."
The 5 August killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers stationed on the r with Gaza compounds the Qandil government's woes. The events in Sinai, says political analyst Diaa Rashwan, will be a major thorn in the side of Mursi and the Qandil government. "Sinai is emerging as a huge security threat, compounding the lawlessness that exists in towns across Upper Egypt and Nile Delta."
The announcement of Qandil's cabinet held few surprises for Rashwan. One was that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi remained as minister of defence. It had been widely rumoured that the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) would be appointed vice president. A second was the appointment of Major General Ahmed Gamaleddin as interior minister.
Gamaleddin is the nephew of Abdel-Ahad Gamaleddin, onetime parliamentary spokesperson of Mubarak's now defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
During the short life of the People's Assembly he had forged close contacts with Muslim Brotherhood MPs.
As widely predicted, minister of international cooperation and planning Faiza Abul-Naga failed to keep her job. The removal of Abul-Naga, a minister for the last 12 years, is likely to please Washington after she led a campaign last year against NGOs alleged to have accepted illegal foreign funding.
Abul-Naga was replaced by Ashraf El-Arabi, the director of the ministry's technical bureau.
Qandil failed to bring any women or Copts into government. His cabinet's two female ministers -- Nagwa Khalil and Nadia Zakhari -- have both been retained from the Ganzouri government. Zakhari is the new government's only Christian member.
The eight ministers from the cabinet of Kamal El-Ganzouri to retain their portfolios are Tantawi at defence, Khalil at social insurance, Zakhari at scientific research, Mohamed Kamel Amr at the Foreign Ministry, Momtaz El-Said at finance, Mohamed Ibrahim at the antiquities department, Mohamed Saber Arab at culture and Ali Sabri at the Ministry of Military Production.
None of the so-called sovereign portfolios -- defence, interior, foreign affairs and finance -- went to Muslim Brotherhood figures, leading to speculation among analysts that the Muslim Brotherhood had opted to keep a low profile in the current government. "They do not want to face the daunting tasks involved in approving the daily life of citizens," said Rashwan. "Tactically, they have decided it is better to avoid any responsibility for possible failure ahead of new parliamentary elections."
Qandil's government has five FJP ministers, with the Brotherhood opting for portfolios in the media, sports and education. Salah Abdel-Maqsoud takes over at the Ministry of Information, Khaled Al-Azhari at manpower, Osama Yassin at the Youth Ministry, Tareq Wafik at housing and Mustafa Mosaad at higher education.
"The appointments suggest the Brotherhood is seeking to penetrate universities, schools, youth centres and trade unions," says Rashwan.
Abdel-Maqsoud's appointment means that the state-owned Television and Radio Union is now under the control of the Brotherhood. The announcement of his ministerial post has raised concerns among many journalists who fear it is a first step towards Islamicising the press.
The appointment of Ahmed Mekki as minister of justice also raised eyebrows. Mekki, a former deputy chairman of the Court of Cassation, caused anger in some judicial circles when he claimed that many Supreme Constitutional Court judgements -- including that dissolving the People's Assembly -- were politicised.
Qandil cabinet includes 35 ministers, six more than the outgoing government. Many newly elevated ministers have spent years working for various state organisations, including former governor of Cairo Abdel-Qawi Khalifa who now heads the Ministry of Utilities, drinking water and sanitary, and former Kafr Al-Sheikh governor Ahmed Zaki Abdine, the new minister of local administration.