Saturday, March 01, 2014

Liberals, Social Democrats Ousted in New Cabinet Reshuffle of Egypt's Military-backed Regime

Egypt cabinet reshuffle hints at 'dissolution of 30 June alliance'

Ayat Al-Tawy, Saturday 1 Mar 2014

Pro-democracy figures express misgivings over the allegedly forced resignation of Egypt's transitional cabinet that had liberals and leftists in the vanguard

As Egypt continues to grapple with the fallout of three years of political tumult that has seen six cabinets appointed to date, a new caretaker government is now in place to face afresh the daunting task of returning stability and economic confidence.

Formed in the wake of the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, the interim government led by liberal economist Hazem El-Beblawi stepped down Monday -- a move analysts view as an attempt to quell growing disillusionment against a backdrop of labour strikes, militant violence and a faltering economy.

The departing cabinet bowed out following months of mounting pressure from what critics say was a relentless campaign waged by old regime protagonists to exclude democrats and revive the police state. A new adminstration was sworn in on Saturday by new Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, a former official in Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

"The state hawks think the dust has settled and their battle with the [Muslim] Brotherhood is now over and that it's time to exclude others and grab power and re-introduce the police state," said Farid Zahran, political analyst and deputy head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, of which El-Beblawi is a leading member.

The once-ruling Brotherhood movement has been battered by a sustained security crackdown since Morsi's ouster that has seen hundreds of Islamists killed and thousands of others, including much of the group's upper echelons, thrown behind bars.

"The strong antagonism created by local media towards the 2011 uprising in recent months, portraying it as a power-grabbing attempt by the Brotherhood, and asserting that 30 June is the real revolt, epitomises the campaign to push out democratic forces from the scene," Zahran said.

Lack of transparency

With a new adminstration in place, critics say it is inauspicious amidst ambiguity surrounding the reshuffle and a likely brief tenure until a presidential poll due in April brings a new president to power.

"It's an extension of its predecessor: a lack of transparency about who comes and who leaves, an absence of a clear-cut programme and a typical reactive approach," said Waheed Abdel-Meguid, spokesperson of the National Salvation Front (NSF), a key opposition grouping during Morsi's presidency.

The reshuffle surprised even some in the cabinet, with El-Beblawi himself widely said to have been forced to resign.

"Ministers in the [outgoing] government were hanging by a thread. They accepted to enter a dark room and be part of an ad-hoc system where nobody knew what they were going to do. And this continues to be the case with the new adminstration," Abdel-Meguid explained, adding that he turned down the culture portfolio in one of the post-revolution governments due to prevalent arbitrary decison-making on the part of authorities.

Most of the ministers in the departing cabinet have been kept on in the new line-up which has done away with leaders of political parties and brought in some new business magnates.

Army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, tipped to be the next head of state, has retained his post as defence minister in Mehleb's 31-strong cabinet. El-Sisi, whose popularity has skyrocketed since he led the ouster of Morsi last summer, has yet to announce his candidacy, but several officials say he has decided to run for president.

'Sinking ship'

The uneasy alliance of pro-democracy advocates, right wingers, leftists and even old regime figures and Islamists who coalesced last summer to demand Morsi's overthrow and now lack a common cause are being used to bear the brunt of the country's current malaise, say some observers.

"El-Beblawi's [forced] resignation was one of many steps towards dissolving the 30 June alliance," Zahran said of the forces that backed last summer's mass protests that led to Morsi's ouster.

With a government of the likes of internationally-renowned opposition figure and former UN diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, liberal politician Ziad Bahaa-El-Din, and law professor and outspoken critic under Mubarak Hossam Eissa in the vanguard, the outgoing cabinet was relatively seen as being a cross-section of the revolution's stripes, which appears absent in the new make-up.

Discord within the cabinet came to the fore early on when ElBaradei quit as vice president almost a month and a half into office after security forces violently disbanded two pro-Morsi protest camps, leaving hundreds dead in one of the worst bloodbaths in decades.

Other controversies also caused faultlines within the cabinet, including a new law that bans all but police-sanctioned protests, and the designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group.

"The revolutionary figures were on the horns of a dilemma in the face of mounting criticism from media and the public," Zahran said.

"[We] did not want to withdraw from the scene, so we're not blamed for leaving a sinking ship, and were rather seeking to retain that bloc that brought down the Brotherhood."

Mehleb: The right choice?

The January resignation of El-Beblawi's deputy, Ziad Bahaa El-Din, a moderate who had been at loggerheads with other government hardliners for sponsoring an initiative favouring political inclusivity should the Brotherhood renounce violence, was another sign of a growing chasm.

In recent months there were increasing disenchantment with El-Beblawi for failing to keep a vice-like grip on the country's security -- a task analysts say belongs to Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, both holdovers in the incoming cabinet.

Since Morsi's overthrow in July, Egypt has been rocked by a deadly Islamist insurgency that has severely decimated investment and an already plummeting tourism industry, vital to keep economy afloat.

But for some, Mehleb, once a long-serving head of a leading construction conglomerate and an outgoing housing minister, is not the man for the current phase.

"The selection of Mehleb, a successful technocrat administrator, and his formation of the new government with some businessmen, does not seem to strike a much-need political balance," said Akram Al-Alfy, a political researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

"Egypt's transition needs an economist politician who can get to grips with challenges of instability and economic woes," he added.

PROFILES: Ministers in Egypt's new cabinet

Ahram Online, Saturday 1 Mar 2014

Ahram Online profiles the 18 ministers who might keep their jobs in Egypt's new interim cabinet, and nine more new additions

In the process of forming a new cabinet, Egypt's new premier Ibrahim Mehleb has been meeting on Friday candidates for ministerial posts, following the sudden resignation of ex-premier Hazem El-Beblawi on Monday.

At least 18 ministers from the cabinet of outgoing prime minister Hazem El-Beblawi will retain their positions in the new cabinet.

Nine new ministers have already been tentatively selected. Three positions are still undecided in the ministries of health, higher education, and justice.

All ministers in the new cabinet are expected to be sworn in within a few days.

The cabinet shuffle also saw 12 ministries merged to become six: the ministries of trade and investment, planning and cooperation, youth and sports, higher education and scientific research, local and administrative development as well as transitional justice and house of representatives.

It has not yet been confirmed whether Field Marshal Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi will continue as defence minister.

However, anonymous sources have told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website on Wednesday that El-Sisi is likely to do so.

If El-Sisi stands for president – as is widely predicted – he must resign from his ministerial post and his position as head of the armed forces.

Meanwhile, interim President Adly Mansour issued on Wednesday a decree that states that the defence minister must be an officer and have served in the armed forces with the rank of major general for at least five years.

Many of the outgoing cabinet's most highly recognised figures have not been appointed in the new government, such as Hossam Eissa, who served asdeputy prime minister and higher education minister, in addition in manpower minister Kamal Abu-Eita and finance minister Ahmed Galal.

Ministers set to remain in their posts:

1- Mohamed Ibrahim –Minister of Interior

Ibrahim was originally appointed in a cabinet reshuffle in January 2013, and was one of the few ministers to keep his post after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Human rights activists and several opposition figures have been calling for his dismissal since the dispersal of pro-Morsi protest camps in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda Square left hundreds dead.

Under Ibrahim's leadership, the police have launched a broad crackdown on Islamists and more recently on secular opposition activists.

Ibrahim's main challenge has been a militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and a growing number of terrorist attacks across the country that have killed dozens of police and soldiers.

2- Nabil Fahmy –Minister of Foreign Affairs

Fahmyis dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo, and was Egypt's ambassador to the US from 1999 to 2008.

Previously, he was the country's ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 1999. He also served as political advisor to the foreign minister from 1992 to 1997.

The career diplomat has worked extensively on issues of Middle East peace and regional disarmament.

Fahmy was born in New York in 1951. He has a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics and a master's in management, both from the American University in Cairo.

3- Adel Labib –Minister of Local and Administrative Development

Labib, 68, served as governor of several provinces under Hosni Mubarak, including Qena in Upper Egypt, Beheira in the Nile Delta, and Alexandria.

There were major protests against him in Alexandria, with some local groups accusing him of mismanagement.

In 2011, prime minister Essam Sharaf appointed him governor of Qena for a second time after local protesters backed him over an unpopular alternative.

He was Qena governor until June 2012 when he was replaced in a reshuffle by president Mohamed Morsi.

4- Ashraf El-Araby –Minister of Planning and International Cooperation

El-Araby served as planning minister from August 2012 until May 2013 under prime minister Hisham Qandil. He was replaced by Muslim Brotherhood figure Amr Darrag.

An economist by training, El-Araby received his doctorate from Kansas State University in the United States. For the majority of his career, he worked at the country's National Planning Institute.

From 2006 until the end of 2011 he headed the technical advisory office of former planning minister Fayza Abul-Naga.

After a brief interlude, during which he worked at the Arab Planning Institute in Kuwait, El-Araby was called back to head the ministry.

He was a key part of the Egyptian team negotiating with the International Monetary Fund over a $4.8 billion loan – a role he is expected to take up again.

5- Atef Helmy –Minister of Communications and Information Technology

Helmy was originally appointed communications minister in January 2013. He resigned from the cabinet on 1 July in protest at Mohamed Morsi's failure to respond to nationwide protests against his rule.

A graduate of a military technical college, Helmy obtained a diploma in computer science from Ain Shams University in 1979.

After leaving the army in 1983, he began his career in the civilian IT sector, working at several Egyptian and multinational corporations, including Oracle Egypt, where he became managing director.

6- Ayman Abu Hadid –Minister of Agriculture

Abu Hadid was first appointed agriculture minister in the cabinet of Ahmed Shafiq, which was formed during the January 2011 uprising. He continued to serve as minister in the following cabinet under Essam Sharaf.

He was replaced as minister under Hisham Qandil in 2012.

7- Dorreya Sharaf El-Din –Minister of Information

Sharaf El-Din was appointed by El-Beblawi and is the first woman to hold the post.

The information ministry has long been criticised for its control over the media, and since the January 2011 revolution many have called for it to be abolished.

Sharaf El-Din is a significant figure in the state-run Egyptian Radio and Television Union. She previously served as the first undersecretary of the information ministry, heading the satellite channels division.

She has also hosted several television shows including Sual (Question) on a state channel and Ahl El-Raey (People of Opinion) on the privately-owned Dream channel.

Sharaf El-Din was also a member of the policies committee and the women's committee of Hosni Mubarak's now-dissolved National Democratic Party.

8- Hisham Zaazou –Minister of Tourism

Zaazou, 59, continues in his post as tourism minister.

He is a political independent who was appointed tourism minister in August 2012. He was previously assistant to former tourism minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour.

Zaazou resigned in June when a member of militant Islamist group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya was appointed governor of Luxor. He later withdrew his resignation and continued as minister after the governor resigned.

9- Laila Iskandar – Minister of Environment

Laila Iskandar is an Egyptian social entrepreneur who has worked on environmental projects that have received international recognition.

She has worked extensively with garbage collectors in Cairo, particularly the community in Moqattam, winning the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1994 for her work. She also set up a recycling project in Sinai working with the local community.

Iskandar was chairperson of CID Consulting (Community and International Development Group) that works with garbage collectors in Cairo on environmental initiatives such as recycling.

CID Consulting received the award for Social Entrepreneur of the Year from the Schwab Foudnation at the World Economic Forum in 2006. Iskandar received the award from then-prime minister Ahmed Nazif in Sharm El-Sheikh where the forum was held.

During her ministerial post, she stood against cement plants seeking to obtain cabinet approval to render coal an alternative source of fuel due to shortages in traditional fuels such as natural gas. The issue remains unresolved.

Iskandar studied economics and political science at Cairo University. She then went on to gain a master's in teaching and a doctorate in education at UC Berkeley, California and Columbia University, New York respectively.

10- Mahmoud Abul-Nasr –Minister of Education

Abul-Nasr was formerly head of the ministry’s technical education sector.

He is currently a faculty member at Cairo University’s mechanical engineering department.

11- Mohamed Amin El-Mahdy –Minister of Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation

An international judge and a prominent lawmaker, El-Mahdy, 77, is a member of the advisory committee of the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA) and the National Human Rights Council.

Graduating with a degree in law in 1956, El-Mahdy started out as an associate in the technical office of president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and later became an advisor to the justice and finance ministers.

Over his extensive career, El-Mahdy has assumed several leading judicial posts. From October 2000 to September 2001, he chaired the Egyptian State Council and the High Administrative Court.

From 1994 to 1997, he served as a constitutional advisor to the Kuwaiti emir.

He was the only Egyptian judge to serve on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the body tasked with prosecuting crimes committed during the country's wars.

In 2007, El-Mahdy was selected by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to be member of the tribunal trying suspects in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

He served on a fact-finding committee tasked with investigating violations committed during the January 2011 uprising.

He also heads a national committee tasked with retrieving Egyptian funds from overseas.

The post of minister of transitional justice and national reconciliation was created in 2013.

12- Mohamed Ibrahim –Minister of Antiquities

Ibrahim was appointed minister of antiquities in December 2012 in the cabinet of prime minister Kamel Ganzouri, and continued in the role under Hisham Qandil until May 2013.

A professor of antiquities at Ain Shams University, Ibrahim has many critics among Egyptian archaeologists and Egyptologists, including ministry employees.

A webpage representing antiquities ministry employees announced their rejection of Ibrahim's appointment and their plans to go on strike and stage a sit-in in front of the ministry building in Cairo's Zamalek.

Critics of Ibrahim say that during his tenure he failed to address corruption, did not provide temporary ministry employees with permanent contracts, and allowed the situation at archeological sites to deteriorate.

13- Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa –Minister of Religious Endowments

Gomaa is dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University, and a member Al-Azhar’s senior clerical institute.

He was born in 1939 in Qalioubiya governorate. He earned his degree in Arabic in 1965 and later completed a master's degree and a doctorate.

Gomaa worked at several newspapers as an Arabic proofreader and has been a member of the Journalists Syndicate since 1972.

He is also the author of several books on religion.

14- Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour –Minister of Industry, trade and Investment

Abdel-Nour claims to have refused a ministerial position under Mohamed Morsi.

He is currently secretary-general of the National Salvation Front, the main opposition bloc under Morsi’s regime.

The 68-year-old served as tourism minister from February 2011 until August 2012 under Essam Sharaf.

As secretary-general of the Wafd Party, he was the first minister from an opposition party to hold a cabinet post for 30 years.

He is also the founder of the Egyptian Finance Company and was a member of the National Council for Human Rights.

He is a director of the Egyptian Federation of Industries and the Egyptian Competition Authority.

15- Sherif Ismail –Minister of Petroleum

Ismail's name was not announced until just before the swearing-in ceremony on 16 July 2013. Another name, Mohamed Shoeb, had been circulating as the person expected to be appointed to the ministry.

Ismail is chairman of the state-owned Ganoub El-Wadi Petroleum Holding Company which manages exploration and production concessions, establishes joint ventures with private companies and constructs oil infrastructure.

16- Khaled Abdel-Aziz –Minister of Youth and Sports

Abdel-Aziz was the head of the Shooting Club, a private sports club in Giza, and then became chairman of the National Council of Youth.

He is a member of the Egypt Party, founded and led by moderate Islamic preacher Amr Khaled.

Abdel-Aziz was director of the 2006 African Cup of Nations, which Egypt hosted and won.

17- Ibrahim El-Demery - Minister of Transportation

This is the third time El-Demery has been chosen as transportation minister. His first term was from 1999 to 2002. He was removed from office after an overcrowded train caught fire in Feburary 2002, killing 373, in Egypt’s worst train disaster.

18- Mohamed Saber Arab - Minister of Culture

Mohamed Saber Arab is a history professor at Al-Azhar University. He was head of the Egyptian National Library and Archives from 2006 until May 2012.

He was first appointed Minister of Culture in May 2012, succeeding Shaker Abdel-Hamid. Arab resigned from the post in June to be allowed to win a state prize for social sciences worth LE200,000, which sparked controversy at the time.

Arab was reinstated in Hisham Qandil’s cabinet in June 2012.

Arab resigned again in January 2013 in protest at brutal treatment of anti-government protesters by police. However, he returned to his position shortly afterwards at the request of Qandil.

He was replaced by controversial figure Alaa Abdel-Aziz in the cabinet reshuffle of May 2013, who faced weeks of protests from members of the arts community after his sackings of high profile culture ministry figures.

Newly-selected ministers:

1- Mohamed Shaker –Minister of Electricity

Shaker is chairman of Shaker group, a consultancy and engineering firm that specialises in electricity projects.

His firm is currently designing and constructing the power generation plant of the Cairo Metro's third phase. It has also built major transmission lines and power generation plants across Egypt and other countries.

2- Nahed El-Ashry –Minister of Manpower

El-Ashry headed the department of labour relations and collective bargaining at the ministry under Morsi and in El-Beblawi's cabinet.

She has worked with most of the other cabinet ministers, and has played a big role in negotiations with striking workers.

3- Ghada Waly –Minister of Social Solidarity

Waly is the secretary-general of the Social Fund for Development (SFD), a government entity that provides startup companies with financial help and other services. Her past experience includes a stint at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), where she worked towards poverty reduction and job creation.

Waly has previously called on the Egyptian government to encourage entrepreneur innovation and development in the microfinance sector.

Waly was also a board member of the Consumer Protection Agency, the first government body for consumer protection, which was created in 2006.

She studied at Colorado State University in the USA, earning an M.A. in Arts and Humanities in 1990 and a B.A. in 1987.

4- Tarek Hanafi –Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources

Hanafi headed the central department for water resources at the ministry under Mohamed Morsi, serving asa senior minister's aide.

He dealt with emergency plans, operational programmes and following up with the legislation related to management of water resources. He earlier headed the ministry's planning department.

He worked as an international expert in water resources management at the World Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Washington and Sanaa in Yemen.

Hanafi, who also served as a consultant in the field of water and conflict resolution in several projects funded by USAID and the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO , and Development Agency of Japan (JICA), was responsible for the Nile Basin file at the ministry of irrigation.

5- Khaled Hanafi –Minister of Supply

Hanafi is chair of the Internal Trade Development Authority (ITDA), a governmental body belonging to the ministry of supply. He was appointed chair of ITDA after a decision by outgoing Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi in late November 2013.

He is also dean of the International Transport and Logistics faculty at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport.

6- Hossam Kamal–Aviation Minister

Kamal was appointed as the chairman of the national aviation company EgyptAir in August 2013. That same year he was also chosen as a representative for Arab airlines in the International Aviation Union.

Kamal's career in the aviation industry has seen him involved with cooperation projects for fuel and equipment purchase as well as a plan to exchange used parts to cut costs on Arab airlines.

7- Ibrahim Younis–Minister of Military Production

Younis is a major general in the army and chairman of the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation (AOI), a military-owned company considered one of the largest industrial organisations in Egypt.

The AOI supreme committee is headed by the country's president and includes several other cabinet ministers.

8- Mostafa Madbouli–Minister of Housing

Madbouli is an architect and urban designer who wasdirector of the UN's HABITAT Regional Office for Arab States.

He holds a PhD in urban planning from Cairo University and a postgraduate diploma in urban management from the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies in Rotterdam.

He served as chairman of the Gerenal Organisation of Physical Planning for almost four years.

Madbouli is succeeding new prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb.

9- Hany Kadry Dimian - Minister of Finance

Dimian was first deputy finance minister for seven months from October 2012 to April 2013, when he resigned for apparent unease over the rising influence of Muslim Brotherhood affiliated economists, according to sources from the finance ministry. Before this post, he was deputy minister for five years.

Dimian has been a key Egyptian negotiator with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In 2008, he was appointed as the Chairman of Deputies for the IMF's International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC). He was the IMFC's deputy at a G20 summit and chaired the IMFC communiqué drafting sessions.

Dimian was close to Youssef Boutros Ghali, a powerful finance minister from the Hosni Mubarak era who fled the country in February 2011.

Dimian attended Columbia University in New York, where he received a master's degree in international affairs and economic policy management.

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