Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1157, (18 - 24 July 2013)
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1157, (18 - 24 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

A government for 30 June

In spite of the continuing protests by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, efforts to build a new government in Egypt may pay off soon, writes Gamal Essam El-Din 

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Hazem Al-Beblawi, the 77-year-old liberal economist who is serving as the country’s interim prime minister, has finalised what many are calling the “30 June government”.
This government, the first after the 30 June Revolution which forced Islamist president Mohamed Morsi out of office on 3 July, includes a majority of liberals and technocrats, some leftists and no Islamists. Its 34 ministers were sworn in on Tuesday.
Al-Beblawi and two other liberal icons, political activist and ex-diplomat Mohamed Al-Baradei and economist Ziad Bahaaeddin, have been heavily involved in picking the members of the new government. The three men belong to two newly-formed political parties that espouse a mixed ideology of liberal democracy and social justice, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Dostour (Constitution) Party.
“As a result,” said Cairo University political analyst Hassan Nafaa, “it is by no means a surprise that most of the choices came in favour of liberals, especially as the military did not have any hand in this cabinet reshuffle.”
The appointment of Mohamed Al-Baradei as vice president for international relations represents an apparent outreach to the West. Al-Baradei, the ex-chief of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency and a Nobel laureate, was a driving force behind the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June.
According to Nafaa, “most Egyptian people were inspired by Al-Baradei’s calls for Morsi to step down and by his active involvement in mobilising the 30 June protests, and so it is natural that Al-Baradei should complete this by helping the revolution get international recognition.”
However, Al-Baradei’s new post will be a testing one. “Although Al-Baradei’s new post as vice president does not include any executive responsibilities, most agree that he is the main architect of this government, or rather he is its de facto prime minister,” Nafaa said, adding that “if he fails, it will be a blow to his political life, and if he succeeds, it will probably ensure that he becomes the next president of Egypt.”
By contrast, the Islamists took Al-Baradei to task for helping to topple Morsi and many have issued threats to assassinate him.
The role of Al-Baradei will be complemented by the selection of Nabil Fahmi, a former ambassador to the United States, as Egypt’s new foreign minister. Although Fahmi said his top priority was ensuring that the new dam in Ethiopia would not negatively affect Egypt’s quota of Nile water, many believe that he will be heavily involved in restoring Egypt’s relations with the United States.
“The Obama administration’s close relationship with the despotic Morsi regime brought it under sharp criticism from most Egyptian political forces, and I think Fahmi’s job will be to mend fences with the US on this issue,” Nafaa said.
The appointment of the 49-year-old Bahaaeddin as deputy prime minister for economic affairs has led to high-profile liberals being in charge of all the economics portfolios.
Bahaaeddin’s liberal fingerprints were clear in the choice of Ahmed Galal, an economist with a doctorate from Boston University and director of the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies, to be tasked with serving as finance minister.
Ahmed Al-Sayed Al-Naggar, an economic analyst with Al-Ahram, said that “Galal faces the formidable task of tackling the dire Egyptian economy that is being held together by $12 billion in loans and grants from three rich Arab countries.”
Al-Naggar, however, warned that Galal could continue in the footsteps of Youssef Boutros Ghali, the former Mubarak regime’s last finance minister, who faced accusations that he adopted harsh neo-liberal policies that led to sending millions of Egyptians under the poverty line.
The economics portfolios also include businessman Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, a former secretary-general of the liberal Wafd Party and a former minister of tourism under Morsi, will be in charge of the industry and trade portfolio. Osama Saleh, a former cabinet minister, will be appointed minister of investment. Ashraf Al-Arabi, a US-educated technocrat who served as minister of planning under Morsi, was given the same post, while Ahmed Al-Boraai, a liberal from the anti-Muslim Brotherhood National Salvation Front (NSF), was put in charge of the Social Solidarity Ministry.
Two leftists joined the 30 June government. Hossam Eissa, a Nasserist, was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of higher education, and Kamal Abu Eita, a long-time Nasserist labour activist, was selected as minister of manpower.
Perhaps the most significant development was that military Commander-in-Chief and Minister of Defence General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was promoted to be first deputy prime minister.
Nafaa believes that “Al-Sisi’s promotion clearly comes as a reward for his role in backing the 30 June Revolution. It could also be a signal that the military is preparing itself to be an active player in political life in the coming period.”
 Al-Naggar, however, disagreed, arguing that “Al-Sisi was promoted to be Al-Beblawi’s first deputy prime minister simply because he is the most senior cabinet minister in the new government.” Al-Sisi is the first defence minister in more than two decades to be promoted to deputy premier. Field Marshal Abdel-Halim Abu Ghazala, who was dismissed from his position in 1989, was the last.
Three high-profile figures will thus act as deputy prime ministers — Al-Sisi, Bahaaeddin and Eissa.
Other than Al-Sisi, five technocratic ministers retained their positions in the new government. Topping this list were Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of Electricity Ahmed Imam, Minister of Telecommunications Atef Helmi, Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou and Minister of Military Production Reda Hafez.
Another significant feature was that three women were appointed cabinet ministers, most of them with liberal tendencies. They included Dorreya Sharafeddin as minister of information, Laila Rashed as minister of environment, and Maha Al-Rabbat as minister of health.
As expected, Al-Beblawi’s cabinet came under fire from the Islamists, who were excluded from it. The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party decided to boycott the Al-Beblawi government, albeit for different reasons.
The FJP still insists that the 30 June Revolution were a military coup, while the Nour Party has said that it “cannot be a part of a government dominated by liberals and secularists”.
“They are repeating the same mistake as the Morsi governments, which were dominated by loyalists from the ruling party,” said Shaaban Abdel-Alim, a former Nour Party MP. Abdel-Alim charged that while deposed former president Mohamed Morsi’s government, headed by former prime minister Hisham Kandil, was dominated by figures loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, the new Al-Beblawi government was controlled by liberals and activists from the anti-Morsi National Salvation Front (NSF).
Nafaa, however, disagreed with Abdel-Alim, stressing that “the Nour Party did not have any role in the 30 June Revolution, or even the 25 January Revolution, and so it is natural that it should stay out of the Al-Beblawi government.”
“The Nour Party was also an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, rubber-stamping its undemocratic laws in the Shura Council and actively participating in drafting its flawed constitution,” Nafaa said. Al-Naggar agreed that “it is the NSF which played the largest role in mobilising the 30 June Revolution against Morsi, and so it is fully logical that some, rather than many, of its figures should join the Al-Beblawi government.”
Nafaa and Al-Naggar agreed that the Al-Beblawi government had three urgent priorities ahead. “These include achieving a smooth transition to fully democratic rule, restoring order on the streets and instituting security in Sinai, and achieving a reasonable economic recovery and improved public services,” Al-Naggar said.
“In the upcoming six-month period, a liberal constitution must be drafted and free parliamentary and presidential elections held,” said Nafaa, adding that “this must go hand-in-hand with fighting violence on the streets and improving security in Sinai.”
On Monday, Morsi supporters clashed with ordinary citizens and security forces in downtown Cairo, leaving seven dead and hundreds injured. According to Nafaa, the Muslim Brotherhood, after its leaders have lost hope in support from the US, has now opted for violence.
“This strategy could continue for a while, but after some time the leaders of this group must realise that it will find itself in a war against the Egyptian people, who turned out in their millions on 30 June to declare their rejection of any kind of religious tyranny,” Nafaa said. (see pp.7&10)

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