by Ines Bel Aiba
by Ines Bel Aiba
CAIRO, Aug 2, 2012 (AFP)
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi swore in a new cabinet on Thursday that retained military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as defence minister while giving the Islamists and their allies several portfolios.
The cabinet, sworn in more than a month after the Islamist Morsi took office, reflects the precarious balance of power between the president and the military, which retains broad powers after transferring control to him.
Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Said, who served in a military-appointed government, will keep his post, although Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had strongly opposed his budget.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party took at least five cabinet seats including education and the information ministry which regulates the media.
Ahmed Mekki, a former appeals court deputy judge who sided with the Islamists when the constitutional court disbanded the parliament they dominated in June, was appointed justice minister.
Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, a self-described devout Muslim whose appointment dismayed Morsi’s secular election allies, said he chose the ministers based on their competence.
“The main principle, the main criterion, was competence,” he told a news conference.
“We should stop using such terms as them and us, and that this is a Christian, or a Copt, or a Muslim. All I see is Egyptians and citizens,” he said.
“We are the people’s government; we do not represent any trend,” he said.
The little-known Qandil was irrigation minister in the outgoing cabinet before Morsi appointed him last week.
Qandil, a senior manager at the African Development Bank before heading Egypt’s Nile Water Sector, has denied that he had belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood or any other party.
He said the cabinet will comprise 35 ministers, including eight ministers of state, and will have to tackle the “enormous” economic and security challenges facing the country since Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in February last year.
Seven ministers will remain from the outgoing military appointed cabinet, including Said and Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr. Former prime minister Kamal Ganzouri will become a presidential adviser, state media reported.
Morsi, who campaigned on promises to revive Egypt’s economy and quickly restore deteriorating security, is eager to push through his programme with a technocratic government, his aides have said.
But he must still contend with the military, which has been historically suspicious of the Islamists, and which controls the budget and retains legislative authority after a court ordered the Islamist-dominated parliament disbanded in June.
The military also dominates a powerful national security council headed by Morsi.