Egypt President al-Sisi keeps key ministers in new government

  • Hindustan Times, Cairo
  • Updated: Sep 19, 2015 19:13 IST
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with his ministers at the presidential palace in Cairo in this September 19, 2015 handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. (Reuters)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi kept his finance, investment and interior ministers in a new government sworn in on Saturday as he tries to rebuild an economy battered by recent Islamist militant violence.

Sisi named former head of the state oil company Tarek al-Mullah as petroleum minister, charged with easing the country’s energy crisis and attracting more foreign investment in a strategic sector.

Mullah succeeds Sherif Ismail, seen as one of the best-performing ministers, who became prime minister.

The new government faces many challenges.

Islamic State, which seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, has gained the backing of the most active militant group in Egypt, the recently renamed Sinai Province.

Militants have stepped up attacks on Egyptian soldiers and police since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. Hundreds have been killed in bombing and shooting attacks.

Egypt is struggling to get large volumes of foreign investment after years of political turmoil triggered by the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, even though Sisi’s economic reforms have won praise.

The new cabinet includes 16 new ministers out of 33 in total but few important posts were handed to newcomers. The defence, foreign and justice ministers all kept their jobs as did most economy-related ministers such as planning and supplies.

“They could not find candidates and the main reason is that no one wants to be minister for three months; it is not enough time,” said Said Sadek, professor of political sociology.

Egypt holds a long-awaited parliamentary election in October and the new chamber will have a say over the government and can even reject Sisi’s choice for prime minister, according to the country’s constitution.

The election concludes in November and a new government is likely to be named after the results are announced.

As army chief, Sisi orchestrated the overthrow of Mursi, Egypt’s first freely-elected president.

Sisi promised to deliver democracy and went on to become elected president. Critics say he has stifled dissent under the toughest security crackdown in the country’s history, allegations the government denies.

Security forces killed hundreds of Islamists and jailed thousands of others. Prominent secular activists have also been jailed.

“This will be a caretaker government, not a political one. There are no politicians and one of the problems with Egyptian politics is we don’t see politicians as ministers. Even the prime minister is not a politician,” said Sadek.

He added that the reason several ministries had been merged was due to the lack of candidates willing to accept posts.

“I see nothing that indicates this is a new government,” said Wahid Abdel Meguid, political analyst at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “Even the new ministers used to be ministers before.”

Sisi kept central bank governor Hisham Ramez in place and appointed Nabil Sadek as prosecutor general more than two months after the previous office holder was assassinated by a car bomb on his way to work.

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