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New Egypt Cabinet sworn in, faces heavy tasks
Question of the Day
The Cabinet lineup includes only two women — one of them also a Christian — and signaled Morsi’s failure to give women and minority Christians more than the token representation they had under Mubarak’s 29-year authoritarian rule.
It also does not include any of the iconic youth figures of the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising. Still, Kandil sought to gain the goodwill of the secular, pro-reform groups behind the revolt, saying his government wanted to realize its slogan: “Bread, freedom and social justice.” He acknowledged that he was abroad when the uprising began Jan. 25, 2011.
The radical Islamist Al-Nour party, which supported Morsi in his presidential bid, decided to boycott the government after it was only offered the environment portfolio. It had wanted the communication, local development and business sector ministries, according to a party spokesman.
Brotherhood members were given the key ministry posts of information, higher education and housing. A fourth Brotherhood member was named minister of state for youth. The information portfolio gives the Brotherhood control over state television, long criticized by Islamists to be lax in safeguarding against Western cultural influence.
The higher education portfolio gives the Brotherhood control over the country’s universities, a traditional recruitment ground for the fundamentalist group. The Youth portfolio could give it an even wider area for recruitment and religious indoctrination.
The military generals who took over from Mubarak in February 2011 handed over power to Morsi but not before they stripped the new president of significant powers and declared themselves as the country’s legislative authority after dissolving the Brotherhood-dominated parliament. The military also has control over the process of drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
The new government comes to office during one of the worst bouts of unrest since the days and weeks that immediately followed Mubarak’s Feb. 11, 2011 ouster.
Lengthy power and water outages in Cairo and across the nation of some 82 million people have been sending thousands to the streets to protest daily. In many cases, protesters cut off roads or attacked government offices.
The outages have deepened the suffering of Egypt’s mainly Muslim population, coinciding with the dawn-to-dusk fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year falls during the scorching July and August heat. During Ramadan, devout Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and other worldly pleasures.
The popular discontent has spread to the gates of Morsi’s presidential palace in Cairo’s leafy suburb of Heliopolis where hundreds gather every day to express a wide range of grievances or to demand jobs, better medical care or housing. Morsi opened two offices to receive citizens’ complaints.
The offices attracted thousands who hoped the new president will redress perceived injustices or meet their demands. Butt hope was soon replaced by despair when nothing was done and some applicants returned to protest.
Egypt’s economy is also sliding fast, with more than half of foreign currency reserves wiped out in the last 18 months, and tourism, a mainstay of the economy, wildly fluctuating to reflect unrest in the country.
By Michael P. Orsi
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