Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Few Islamists in Egypt's cabinet

Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi (AP/Mark Wilson)

Egypt's incoming cabinet will have few Islamists and some holdovers from the outgoing military-backed team in key positions, according to a partial list.

The list was released by state media on Wednesday, a day before the first government under the country's new Islamist president is sworn in.

The choices by President Mohammed Morsi's prime minister, Hesham Kandil, are seen as a test of the intentions of Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt's official news media listed more than 20 ministers in the new cabinet, so far including only two members from the Brotherhood - an apparent attempt to calm concerns over the group's intention to dominate the government.

The Brotherhood appointees will hold the higher education and the housing ministries.

Highlighting the difficulties of forming a government with broad appeal, Mr Kandil took more than a week to nominate his ministers. The government must also work through a power struggle between the newly elected president and the military council, which ruled Egypt during 17 months of transition.

The military council, headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, took over power following long-time President Hosni Mubarak's ousting.

Just before Mr Morsi was declared winner, the military council issued a constitutional amendment which undercut much of the president's authority, gave the military the right to approve the budget and retain legislative powers. The first elected parliament had been dissolved through a court order days before.

Key ministers of information, justice and culture are yet to be named, highlighting the tough negotiations over the posts. The defence minister is expected to be named by the military.

Mr Kandil and Mr Morsi's first government face daunting challenges, the first of which is presenting a coalition government that moves to heal deep divisions in the country following the election in June of the Islamist Mr Morsi as Egypt's first civilian president.

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