Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi appointed nine new ministers in a cabinet reshuffle, increasing the power of Islamists in his government. He promised the new cabinet would make solving the country’s economic difficulties a top priority and called on Egyptians to support the new officials.
On April 20th, Morsi announced the second reshuffle since he took office last July, but failed to give additional details to media outlets. But after Tuesday’s swearing in ceremony, three new Freedom and Justice members hold cabinet seats, bringing 11 out of 36 seats under Muslim Brotherhood control. The Brotherhood’s Islamist allies run other ministries as well.
President Mohammed Mursi (center) with Prime Minister Hisham Qandil and nine new cabinet ministers during a meeting in Cairo. (Photo: AFP)
Morsi’s reshuffle has done little to ease political tensions in the Arab world’s most populous country. Egyptian Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, both derided by opposition groups, remain in power. Activists hold Ibrahim accountable for failing to stop abuses by the security forces. Opposition groups also say the new appointments do not solve the country’s problems and have accused the president of packing positions with loyalists. One member of the National Salvation Front said, “The regime once again chose ministers who are either members of the Muslim Brotherhood or affiliated with the group, while ignoring the opposition demand of appointing independent ministers capable of dealing with the economic, political and security issues.”
Since the 2011 revolution, Egyptians continue to feel the affects of a failing economy. Cairo’s foreign reserves dropped more than 50% with tourism and investment have also plummeting. More Egyptians to face unemployment while food prices continue to rise.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will watch Morsi’s new cabinet members closely as the Egyptian government seeks a $4.8 billion loan to bolster the economy. The President replaced the both the finance and planning minister, who failed to secure an agreement on the loan’s conditions. Fayed Abdel Moneim, the new finance minister, teaches Islamic economic policies at a Sunni university but has no government experience. IMF leaders want broad political support and sound economic policy for a deal which could introduce austerity measures. Politically-sensitive prescriptions, such as tax increases and subsidy reductions, will probably be included in the IMF loan.
Executive power grabs and the appointment of loyalists to the government continue to cause political turmoil and economic uncertainty in Egypt. Appointing technocrats and independent leaders should be one of the first steps to break the economic downturn and form a more inclusive political system.