Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 August - 5 September 2012
Issue No. 1112
Egypt
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

They have the president's ear

After almost two months of searching, the names of the presidential team are out, reports Reem Leila

On 27 August presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said President Mohamed Mursi had named his presidential team which includes four assistants and 17 advisers. The names were announced during a press conference held just hours before Mursi left for China, a visit which will be followed by another to the Iranian capital Tehran.

The four presidential assistants who will have offices at the presidential palace are Samir Morcos, in charge of the democratic transition file, Pakinam El-Sharqawi, responsible for political issues, Emad Abdel-Ghafour, for social communication affairs and Essam El-Haddad, who will be in charge of foreign relations and international cooperation.

The 17 presidential advisers who will be conducting regular meetings with Mursi are Ahmed Omran, Omayma Kamel, Ayman Ali, Ayman El-Sayad, Bassem El-Zarka, Hussein El-Qazzaz, Khaled Alameddin, Rafiq Habib, Sekina Fouad, Seifeddin Abdel-Fattah, Essam El-Erian, Emad Abdallah, Amr El-Leithi, Farouk Goweida, Selim El-Awwa, Mohamed Seif El-Dawla and Mohi Mohamed.

More names are to be announced soon, Ali said.

Ali told the press that the presidential team represented &qut;different sectors of society with all its various political, religious, social and cultural affiliations." According to Ali, the team will act as "one mind" that will propose ideas and projects, as well as provide possible solutions and suggestions to the country's chronic problems. This is in addition to providing a comprehensive political vision.

Several political figures expressed their reservations about the team, questioning the criteria upon which they were selected. Political analyst Amr Hamzawy, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said the team did not include any representatives of labourers, farmers or youths who played a leading role in the success of the 25 January Revolution. "It also does not comprise figures representing any of the political parties other than the Freedom and Justice Party [FJP] and the Salafist Nour Party. This raises several questions regarding the actual reasons behind choosing such figures," said Hamzawy.

"The team includes technocrats along with the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, but liberals are not represented in the team. Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood make up almost two-thirds of the whole team. This is quite a high percentage regarding variations of society," he added.

Activist George Ishaq of the Kifaya movement objects to the presidential team formation. "Opposition representatives were totally ignored in the formation. It was essential to have opposition representatives as they will participate with their various opinions and ideologies on various issues," said Ishaq.

Islamist domination and structure of the team were not the only problems for critics, who also expressed their concerns over the large number of advisers and the vagueness of their role and authorities.

Ishaq said the number of advisers was very big. "This makes us doubt whether Mursi will truly be interested in taking advice from a team outside of the Brotherhood. Moreover, a number of independents do not have considerable experience in public office."

Hamzawy agreed with Ishaq and asked to what extent the new presidential team will be able to address problems left over from the Mubarak era. "Will they be provided with powers to work on solving these problems immediately? Will their opinions be mandatory or just optional?" asked Hamzawy while hoping that the officials concerned would provide the public during the coming days with more information about their exact role and powers.

Lawyer Ahmed Abu Baraka who is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood disagrees with many of the opinions. "All factions of society are represented in the presidential team. The team includes Copts, women, Islamists and independents, all of them representing society. What else do people want from the president? He is exerting his utmost efforts, yet people are not pleased," argued Abu Baraka.

Abu Baraka also pointed out that it is normal that two-thirds of the presidential team would be Islamists and leaning-Islamist members. "We are an Islamic country and the ruling party is the FJP which represents the Muslim Brotherhood in the country. What else do people expect?" said Abu Baraka.

Of the 21 members of the presidential team, six belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. Essam El-Erian is acting chairman of the FJP. El-Erian is a veteran politician who was a member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau before the FJP was founded.

Omayma Kamel is a member of both the FJP and the current constituent assembly. Kamel, a former MP, also served as official spokeswoman for women's affairs in Mursi's presidential campaign.

Mohi Mohamed is a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau. Originally a surgeon, Mohamed has been a member of the group since the late 1970s. He served as secretary-general of the Brotherhood's administrative office from 2001 until 2008.

Hussein El-Qazzaz is an economic adviser to the FJP and a stand-in in Egypt's 100-member constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Rafiq Habib is a Christian thinker and vice president of the FJP. Ayman Ali is a physician and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The presidential team also comprises three from the Salafist Nour Party. Emad Abdel-Ghafour is an ultra-conservative member of the Nour Party known for being an anti-feminist. He was selected as the president's consultant for social communication.

Bassem El-Zarka is a member of the Nour Party's higher committee. He is a former MP and a current member of the constituent assembly.

Khaled Alameddin is a leading member of the Nour Party. Alameddin was offered the post of environment minister in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, but turned down the offer to express his opposition to the small number of cabinet posts offered to the Nour Party.

In addition, the team consists of three Islamist-leaning members. Pakinam El-Sharqawi, born in Alexandria, is a Cairo University political science professor.

Selim El-Awwa, an Islamic scholar and writer, was one of 13 candidates to contest Egypt's first democratic presidential election, in which he won some 250,000 votes.

Amr El-Leithi is a television announcer working for the Mehwar satellite channel. El-Leithi is widely known for his high-profile interviews with prominent Egyptian figures, including President Mursi himself.

The team also include two Copts, Habib and Morcos, who previously headed the NGO of the Al-Masri Foundation for Citizenship and Dialogue. Morcos is not formally affiliated to any political party.

The presidential team also consists of two women -- Kamel and veteran writer and journalist Sekina Fouad, who is also a leading member of the liberal Democratic Front Party.

Independent members of the team are Farouk Goweida, a prominent poet and journalist, who was once a candidate for minister of culture.

Ayman El-Sayad is editor-in-chief of Weghat Nazar magazine and veteran journalist for several regional publications including the pan-Arab magazine Al-Megala.

El-Sayad was among several pro-revolution Egyptian journalists at the time of last year's uprising.

Mohamed Seif El-Dawla is a Nasserist-leaning political analyst. Seif El-Dawla is also a founder of the "Egyptians against Zionism" campaign which opposes normalisation with Israel.

Seifeddin Abdel-Fattah is a Cairo University political science professor since 1988. He is also a consultant for the International Academy for Islamic Thought.

Ahmed Omran is a computer science professor at Fayoum University.

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