Egypt’s new government sworn in today, featuring continuity from SCAF transitional government

The first Egyptian cabinet of newly elected Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and his new prime minister Hisham Qandil was sworn in today.

That Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi (pictured above, with US defense secretary Leon Panetta) will continue to serve as defense minister in the cabinet of tells you everything you need to know about Egypt’s new cabinet.

Qandil admitted as much in a press conference following the ceremony — the cabinet will feature continuity over rupture.

Tantawi, Egypt’s minister of defense since 1991 and the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that took over Egypt’s government after the resignation of former president Hosni Mubarak, is the personification of the Egyptian military.  Although it was widely expected that he would continue in some role in Morsi’s government, at least initially, it makes clear that Egypt’s military will still wield a considerable amount of power, notwithstanding the transition to a democratically-elected president.

Otherwise, many of the “new” cabinet ministers are holdovers from the prior transitional government of SCAF prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, including the finance minister, Momtaz el-Said, and the foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, both career diplomats.

The remaining positions went mostly to longtime Muslim Brotherhood figures (although not to Khairat al-Shater, the Brotherhood’s first-choice presidential candidate), including:

  • Mostafa Mosaad, a member of the Brotherhood’s direct political vehicle, the Freedom and Justice Party (حزب الحرية والعدالة‎), was appointed higher education minister.
  • Tarek Wafiq, an engineer and head of the FJP’s housing committee, was appointed housing minister.
  • Salah Abdel Maqsoof, an outspoken Muslim Brotherhood journalist, was appointed minister of information (and will, notably, control access to state television and other key media sources).

The SCAF-heavy cabinet is already being criticized as lacking enough fresh faces, lacking women and lacking any political appointees from outside the Muslim Brotherhood.  Qandil’s appointment last week has been subject to much criticism — he’s been perceived as having insufficient political experience, a lacking economic background and very close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the most promising appointments is the new justice minister, Ahmed Mekky, a prominent and reform-minded judge who is the former vice president of Egypt’s Court of Appeals, and Mohamed Mahsoub, a member of the centrist Al-Wasat party will be the minister of parliamentary affairs.

Despite an initial decision to appoint hard-line Salafist scholar Mohamed Ibrahim as minister of religious endowments, Morsi and Qandil appear to have backed down amid criticism and instead appointed Osama El-Abd, the vice-chancellor of Al-Azhar University, the oldest university in Egypt. Continue reading Egypt’s new government sworn in today, featuring continuity from SCAF transitional government

‘Politically bankrupt’ Rajoy running out of options in Spain

Speigel International earlier this week described a bit of the hopelessness of prime minister Mariano Rajoy who, only eight months into a government that was supposed to allow Spain to turn the corner, is watching his country sink even further into crisis.

Read it all, but this part, in particular, struck me as particularly insightful:

For too long, the prime minister believed that his mere presence at the head of the government was enough to ensure that Spain would stop “being a problem and become part of the solution.”

Rajoy’s bet was that a win by his center-right Partido Popular (PP, People’s Party) over the center-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) would be enough to assure investors that Spain could make it through the crisis. Sure enough, Rajoy’s PP won 186 seats to just 110 for the PSOE, even after José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, prime minister since 2004, made clear he was stepping down as prime minister.

But that hasn’t stopped the crisis — if anything, Spain’s nightmare has accelerated in the past eight months, which makes Spiegel‘s description all the more depressing:

And what has Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy done? He hasn’t given a television address or uttered so much as an explanatory or reassuring word to Europe or his people. Instead Rajoy, 57, has disappeared into his office at the Moncloa Palace on the outskirts of the capital Madrid. Some say that he spends his time there staring helplessly and powerlessly at charts. He meets with business leaders like Siemens CEO Peter Löscher in rooms decorated with modern art, and he has even met with Spanish trade union leaders for the first time, though it was after they had already spoken off the record with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Others say that Rajoy is irritating his European partners with hectic phone calls.

This behavior doesn’t inspire confidence. It seems more like a declaration of political bankruptcy.

What went so wrong? Continue reading ‘Politically bankrupt’ Rajoy running out of options in Spain