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.

Other key positions — all of which are incumbents or bureaucratic holdovers from the Mubarak era — include the following:

  • Mohamed Ibrahim will retain his position as antiquities minister.
  • Career policeman Ahmed Gamal El-Din was appointed as interior minister.
  • Osama Saleh, the head of the state-owned General Authority for Investment was appointed investment minister.
  • Osama Kamal, the head of the Egyptian Petrochemical Holding Company, was appointed oil minister.
  • Mahmoud Balbaa, the head of the Egyptian Electric Holding Company, was appointed electricity / energy minister.

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