Egypt’s president swears in new Cabinet; Tantawi to remain defense minister


Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi swore in a new Cabinet on Thursday that retained military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as defense minister while giving the Islamists and their allies several portfolios.

The cabinet, sworn in more than a month after the Islamist Mursi took office, reflects the precarious balance of power between the president and the military, which retains broad powers after transferring control to him.

The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party took at least five cabinet seats including education and the information ministry which regulates the media.

Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, a self-described devout Muslim whose appointment dismayed Mursi’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. Former prime minister Kamal Ganzouri will become a presidential adviser, state media reported.

Mursi, who campaigned on promises to revive Egypt’s economy and quickly restore deteriorating security, is eager to push through his program 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 Mursi.

Tantawi served as former president Hosni Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades until the military assumed power in February, 2011, ending a mass uprising against Mubarak’s rule.

The military formally handed power to President Mursi at the end of June. But generals remain at the heart of power and play a role in the country’s civilian administration under a decree they issued on the eve of Mursi’s election.

Their powers include the authority to pass laws following their dissolution of the Brotherhood-led parliament.

At least nine ministers also served under the outgoing Cabinet, including Finance Minister Momtaz el-Said and Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, as well as the military production and culture ministers, kept their posts.

Salah Abdul-Maqsoud, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, will be the country’s minister of information.

At least two, including the Youth Ministry, went to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Some party officials had earlier said they were targeting between 25% to 50% of the ministerial posts.

The following are members of Egypt’s new Cabinet:

*Momtaz El-Said (Finance)
*Osama Saleh (Investment)
*Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (Defense)
*Salah Abdul Maqsoud (Information)
*Osama Kamal (Oil)
*Hany Mahmoud (Communications)
*Mohammed Kamel Amr (Foreign Affairs)
*Osama al-Abd (Religious endowments)
*Mustafa Mosaad (Higher Education)
*Tarik Wafik (Housing)
*Hisham Zazou (Tourism)
*Mohammed Ibrahim (Antiquities)
*Ahmed Zaki Abdeen (Local Development)
*Mohammed Rashad (Transportation)
*Abdul Qawi Khalifa (Public Utilities)
*Mohammed Baha Eddin (Irrigation)
*Nagwa Khalil (Social Insurance)
*Nadia Zukhary (Scientific Research)
*Salah Abdul Mamoun (Agriculture)
*Saad Mohammed Balba (Electricity & Energy)
*Ahmed Gamal Eddin (Interior)
*Abu Zaid Mohammed Abu Zaid (Supply and Internal Trade)
*Mohammed Mahsoub (Legal Affairs)
*Mohammed Rashad el-Meteiny (Transportation)
*Ali Sabry (Military Production)
*Mohammed Saber Arab (Culture)
*Mohammed Mustafa (Health)
*Ibrahim Ahmed Ghoneim (Education)
*Hatem Saleh (Industry and Foreign Trade)
*Ahmed Mekki (Justice)
*Ashraf al-Arabi (Planning and International Cooperation)
*Osama Yaseen (Youth)