Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi announced early Monday evening he would finalize his selection of ministers by Tuesday, and they would be sworn in to his Cabinet on Wednesday at the latest.
Some of the newly appointed ministers — which so far exclude Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist figures — have already sparked controversy.
After emerging on the political scene as the leader of the main opposition movement against former President Hosni Muarak’s regime in 2010, and continuing to act as the lead voice for the opposition over the last three years, Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei was sworn in as the vice president of international relations on Sunday. ElBaradei had initially been nominated as prime minister under interim President Adly Mansour, but his name was withdrawn after objections from the Salafi Nour Party.
Rivalries between different labor organizations led to criticism of the choice of labor activist Kamal Abu Eita as minister of manpower.
Abu Eita has a long history as a labor rights activist under the Mubarak regime, founding the country’s first independent syndicate for real estate tax workers in 2008. Abu Eita resigned from his post as head of the General Union for Independent Syndicates following his appointment to the Manpower Ministry.
The Union for Egyptian Labor Syndicates staged protests against Abu Eita’s appointment, demanding a minister with no affiliation to any labor organizations.
Labor activist Seham Shoeida welcomes the choice, though, dismissing the criticism as based on partisan interests. Shoeida, who was among labor activists who met with Abu Eita following his appointment, says that the new minister’s priorities would including issuing a syndicate freedoms law, reopening state-owned companies that had been closed under the previous government and restoring wrongfully terminated jobs.
“I hope that the new labor minister will be a unionist, not a politician who places his party’s interests above those of Egypt’s workers. This next minister must work to impartially defend labor rights,” says Federation of Independent Trade Unions council member Emad al-Araby.
Some members of the judiciary have rejected former State Council head Mohamed al-Mahdy’s appointment as minister of justice on the basis of his former position. Judges argue that, since the ministry has punitive powers, it has been the norm to select a minister from the regular judiciary — which includes the majority of judges — and not the State Council.
Beblawi also appointed veteran economist Ziad Bahaa Eddin as his deputy for economic affairs.
Bahaa Eddin held office under Mubarak as chairman of the General Authority for Investment, and then headed up the financial supervisory authority before resigning from his post with the outbreak of the January 25 2011 revolution. He has written extensively about the economic challenges Egypt is facing, social justice and inclusive economic policies, and is now the director of the Egyptian Initiative for the Prevention of Corruption. Bahaa Eddin had also been nominated as international cooperation minister.
Gamal Bayoumi, secretary general of the Federation of Arab Investors, says that he hopes those nominated to ministerial positions related to the economy are qualified to steer the country out of its current economic quagmire.
With his economic and legal expertise, in addition to his organizational skills, Bahaa Eddin is a good choice to coordinate between economic ministries, Bayoumi asserts.
Bayoumi is also enthusiastic for about new Minister of Finance and World Bank veteran Ahmed Galal. Galal is currently the managing director of the Economic Research Forum.
Galal’s advantage lies in his vast experience in both international and local arenas, Bayoumi claims, adding that the new minister is adept at negotiating widely diverse opinions due to his work in the forum, and that he already served as an advisor to former governments.
As for the new Minister of Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Bayoumi says that as a businessman and a politician, he is the right man to address this sector’s problems.
Abdel Nour, a former tourism minister nominee, is also the secretary general of the liberal Wafd Party and the National Salvation Front, Egypt’s foremost opposition coalition.
Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou returned to his post after having resigned from former Prime Minister Hesham Qandil’s Cabinet following the controversial appointment of a Luxor governor who belonged to a Salafi party accused of orchestrating a terrorist attack on the touristic city in 1997.
Media personality Doreya Sharaf Eddin, who previously served as head of the censorship committee on artistic works, has been appointed information minister, though presidential media adviser Ahmed al-Moslemany announced on Monday that the Information Ministry would be abolished during the interim period and replaced by an independent body.
The second woman appointed to Belbawi’s Cabinet is new Culture Minister Inas Abdel Dayem. An internationally recognized flute player, Abdel Dayem served as head of the Cairo Opera House in 2012 until she was fired by former Culture Minister Alaa Abdel Aziz, sparking weeks of protests.