Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Holding the fort

With a cabinet reshuffle in the offing, Prime Minister Hisham Kandil’s government has its work cut out simply maintaining a rickety status quo, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Until a new parliament is elected Prime Minister Hisham Kandil’s government faces the daunting task of fostering political stability after weeks of massive street protests and trying to halt further economic deterioration amid continuing pressure on the Egyptian pound.

In his Shura Council speech on Saturday President Mohamed Morsi said he had asked Kandil to reshuffle the cabinet to ensure it was better able to face political and economic challenges. On Monday Kandil said the reshuffle will be completed at the earliest opportunity.

Ahead of talk of cabinet changes two of Kandil’s ministers — Mohamed Mahsoub, minister of state for legal and parliamentary affairs, and Minister of Communications Hani Mahmoud — had decided to resign. Mahsoub, who played a major role in the drafting of the recently-promulgated Islamist-backed constitution, tendered his resignation on 27 December, saying that “many of the government’s policies run counter to my personal convictions”. A member of the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, Mahsoub went on to describe the Kandil government as weak and ineffective. “Egypt deserves a far better government than this one,” he said.

There was immediate speculation that Mahsoub had resigned because the Wasat Party, which had fiercely defended the Islamist-backed constitution, felt short changed by the Muslim Brotherhood and that Morsi’s appointment of many of its members to the Shura Council was viewed as insufficient political return.

Having told the procedural session of the Shura Council on 26 December that the government was ready to submit a series of key political and economic reform laws that would place Egypt on the road to stability, Mahsoub’s resignation the following day came as a surprise, fuelling rumours that the Wasat had expected its chairman Abul-Ela Madi to replace Kandil as prime minister as a reward for not joining civil forces when they withdrew from the Constituent Assembly.

Wasat Secretary-General Hussein Zayed said the party had been shocked by Morsi’s decision to keep Kandil in office.

“Kandil is by no means a politicised figure. He is the last man to lead a government facing political unrest and a severe economic crisis,” said Zayed.

Muslim Brotherhood strongman and business tycoon Khairat Al-Shater had also been tipped to replace Kandil though the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) had let it be known that Al-Shater would be unlikely to head a government until “after new parliamentary elections are held and the FJP wins a majority in the House of Representatives”.

That said, several FJP officials are expected to join the cabinet. Abdallah Shehata, chairman of FJP’s economic and fiscal committee, is tipped to replace Momtaz Al-Said as minister of finance. Shehata has criticised Al-Said for being too close to Youssef Boutros Ghali, the Mubarak-era finance minister who left Egypt during the 25 January Revolution. Shehata, a professor of economics at Cairo University, has accused Al-Said of seeking to embarrass Morsi.

“He forced the Kandil government to raise the prices of several key commodities ahead of the referendum on the constitution which led to demonstrations in front of the presidential palace last month,” Shehata told a news talk show.

The chairman of the FJP’s Energy Committee is frontrunner to take over the Petroleum Ministry while FJP stalwart Reda Aggag is being spoken of as the next minister of supply and internal trade.

The reshuffle is expected to involve a number of service ministries including transport, communications, electricity, legal and parliamentary affairs, finance, local development, agriculture and internal trade supply.

Kandil has already met with Ahmed Al-Rakaibi, chairman of the Holding Company for Food Industries and another possible candidate for the supply and internal trade portfolio; Atef Helmi, a former manager of Oracle Information Technology and possible candidate for the post of minister of communications and Hafez Abdel-Aal, executive director of the Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency, and a possible minister of electricity.

Following attacks on Ahmed Gamaleddin, the current minister of interior, by Muslim Brotherhood sources for allegedly failing to safeguard its offices from attacks, there has been frenzied speculation about his possible replacement.

A change of faces around the cabinet table is unlikely to restore political and economic stability.

“It is not a matter of juggling portfolios. The problem is the government lacks political vision,” says Al-Ahram political analyst Emad Gad. He believes that, like Mubarak, Morsi is loath to appoint “forceful figures” to the cabinet.

“Like his predecessor Morsi seems fond of selecting prime ministers who are so weak they cannot take a decision without first seeking the president’s approval,” says Gad. “Only last month, when Kandil decided to raise the price of several commodities, Morsi intervened on the same day to postpone them.”

The Wafd Party’s Fouad Badrawi expects any cabinet changes will be “cosmetic”.

“Kandil government’s role is to prepare the ground for People’s Assembly elections and support the Islamist-dominated Shura Council in passing legislation that will help the Muslim Brotherhood secure control over all state institutions,” says Badrawi.

One possible spanner in the works of the Brotherhood’s plans, according to Badrawi, is that “if economic conditions continue to worsen ahead parliamentary elections a political crisis could ensue which will leave Egypt on the brink of disaster.”

“Yet as long as the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist president continue sidelining the opposition and insist on monopolising power stability will remain out of reach.” 


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