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Kerry welcomes "competent" Egyptian cabinet

February 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

The US Secretary of State has welcomed the appointment of the new cabinet in Egypt. John Kerry, who is on a visit to the region, said that it is full of “competent” people.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi announced the appointments amid protests as Egyptians continue to call for a “restoration of legitimacy”. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Cabinet building to protest against Al-Beblawi’s move and to call for the reinstatement of Mohamed Morsi.

Despite the obvious dissatisfaction felt by many Egyptians, the secretary of state continued to lend his country’s support to the coup by welcoming the new ministerial team. Accepting that it was still too early to tell exactly what the future for Egypt holds, Kerry said that he did believe that the new appointments were “highly competent”. However, it is not entirely clear what Kerry’s assessment of competency is based on, given that the new cabinet is made up of a number of Minsters who have strong links with the former Mubarak regime:

1.    Ahmad Jalal, the newly-appointed Minster of Finance, was not only the director of the Economic Research Forum, a think-tank based in Cairo, but also acted as a personal adviser to Jamal Mubarak under the discredited regime. Jamal Mubarak was charged with corruption following the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and imprisoned for 15 days.

2.    Mounir Abdel Nour, the new Minister of Industry, served as a minister during the military council’s rule in Egypt after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak. Earlier this year he was called to give evidence in a corruption case involving the “squandering” of public money; the Public Funds Prosecutions said that he did not give evidence as a suspect.

3.    The new Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development, Ibrahim Mahlab, was a member of the National Democratic Party’s Polices Committee. Prior to his involvement in politics he was a leading figure in the construction business in Egypt. The construction industry was riddled with corruption during the Mubarak era and Mahlab was certainly a key player during that time. Indeed, Mubarak paid Mahlab 10 million Egyptian pounds for the construction of a tomb for his grandson.
4.    The man appointed as Minister of Local Development served as a governor in several localities during the Mubarak era, most notoriously in Alexandria where the situation deteriorated after Khaled Sayeed died after being beaten by two policemen. At the time, the Egyptian media reported Sayeed’s death as a factor in the January 25th Revolution. The demonstrations against Governor Adel Labib called for his removal from office.

5.    Hossam Eissa is the new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Higher Education. He left the Dostour Party earlier this year accusing party officials of corruption and attempting to hold onto power. Despite pleas from Mohamed ElBaradei, Eissa refused to stay in the party. He was also reported to have said that if the military council take on legislative powers, the revolution in Egypt would be back to square one. Despite this apparent opposition to the involvement of the military in the government and disagreements with his party, he has accepted a position in the military-backed coup government.

6.    New Minister of Information Dorreya Sharaf el-Din was the Assistant Secretary General of the National Council for Women under Hosni Mubarak. She was also a significant figure in the state-run media during the Mubarak era.

7.    Nabil Ismail Fahmi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is a former ambassador to the US and Japan, and worked as a political adviser to a former foreign minister during the Mubarak era. In an al-Ahram newspaper article, it was revealed that Fahmi had abandoned his troops during the October War of 1973, having forged an order telling him to do so. The memoirs of Saad Eddin al-Shathely supported these claims.

8.    The Minister for Culture added to the irregularities of the new cabinet by the appointment of Ines Abdel Dayem to look after the Egyptian National Opera despite the fact that she has been dismissed for legal infractions.

Though some ministers from the Morsi era have stayed on, it is they, the ministers for electricity, petrol and internal affairs, who were involved in planning and orchestrating events which created the necessary social conditions to ensure the coup’s success.