Sisi’s Cabinet: New but familiar faces

The new Cabinet was sworn in before President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Tuesday morning under the leadership of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb. Thirteen new ministers joined the Cabinet, with 21 ministers returning.

The new formation marked the return of several Mubarak-era ministers, along with some who left the government under Morsi, protesting his policies and interference in their work.

Despite good relations with the current government, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy was ousted and replaced by Sameh Shoukry, former President Hosni Mubarak’s secretary of information in the 90s. He was also Egypt’s envoy to the UN Human Rights Council and served as Egypt’s ambassador to Washington from 2008 to 2011.

After protesting the government’s plans to increase the use of coal, former Environment Minister Laila Iskandar was replaced by Khaled Fahmy, who was appointed to this position under President Mohamed Morsi in February 2012, resigning as huge protests were ignited against the regime on June 30, 2013.

While Iskandar opposed the coal project, adding her voice to many NGOs that have warned of its catastrophic effect on the environment, the new minister has vocalized his support of the project in the media, asserting that it is not harmful to the environment. Following the announcement of his position in the ministry, Fahmy stated that the government’s decision to use coal in cement industries is final.

Iskandar remained in the Cabinet, and was assigned to the only new ministry, of Urban Development and Informal Areas.

Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim continues his tenure under a third president. First appointed under Mohamed Morsi in January 2013, Ibrahim stayed in his post in the new government under President Adly Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi. He also remained in position in the new government formed in March under the leadership of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb.

Finance Minister Hany Qadry remains in position after being appointed in March in Mehleb’s first Cabinet. After being one of Mubarak-era Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali’s senior aids, he resigned from his post as Deputy Finance Minister under Morsi, complaining of interference in his work from Muslim Brotherhood members in the ministry. Qadry was one of the ministers spearheading the former Cabinet’s efforts to implement contentious reforms — such as cutting subsidies and restructuring the overall system in order to tighten the state’s gaping deficit — a move that has been seen as an approach that better targets those who need subsidies most. Progressive taxes were also being studied under Qadry, with the ministry announcing a proposed capital gains and dividends tax that raised concerns among stock market investors.

The new Justice Minister Mahfouz Saber has overseen the disciplinary council for judges and public prosecution since last August. The council is currently investigating 34 members of the Judges for Egypt movement, who have been referred to the council on accusations of political involvement. 

The National Council for Women released a statement on Tuesday in objection to the ratio of women in the new Cabinet, as only four women were named ministers.

The statement considered this an insufficient representation, highlighting its inconsistency with Sisi’s latest speech, in which he said women would be included in decision-making positions, privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported.

The new cabinet includes Ghada al-Wali as minister of social solidarity, Nahed al-Ashry as minister of manpower, Laila Iskandar as minister of urban development and Nagla al-Ahwany as minister of international cooperation.

The statement added that the Council had hoped for a larger representation of women in comparison to previous cabinets, to reflect the presence and participation of women in the community, adding that Egypt is full of talented and efficient women in all fields who can handle work in the ministries just as well as men.

Ambassador Mervat al-Talawy, head of the Council, said that women would continue to fight for decision-making positions, especially after their effective participation in all political events, including the constitutional referendum and presidential elections.

“Women expect the government to adopt a new vision that reflects real belief in their abilities and contributes to changing the common culture surrounding roles that women can take,” Talawy added.

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