London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian prime minister Hisham Qandil announced a controversial cabinet reshuffle of nine ministers on Tuesday, strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on government.
The cabinet reshuffle saw the replacement of key ministers involved in crucial talks with the IMF over a proposed USD 4.8 billion loan. Planning minister Ashraf Al-Arabi had played a central role in the IMF negotiations; he is to be replaced by senior Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) figure Amr Darrag. Darrag had previously run as an FJP candidate for a parliamentary seat in Giza, but lost out to a liberal candidate. He later served as secretary-general of Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, which drafted and passed the country’s controversial post-revolution constitution.
Another senior Muslim Brotherhood figure, Yaya Hamed, was named investment minister, replacing Osama Saleh. Hamed had previously served as a spokesman for Islamist president Mohamed Mursi during the electoral campaign that brought him to power. Prior to this, Hamed held several marketing and sales positions within Vodafone Egypt.
Another Freedom and Justice Party figure, Ahmed El-Gizawi, took over the agriculture ministerial portfolio, meaning that the Brotherhood is in charge of approximately a third of the 35 cabinet portfolios.
Fayyad Abdel Moneim, a specialist in Islamic economics, was appointed as the country’s finance minister, replacing Al-Mursi Al-Sayed Hegazy—also an Islamic finance expert—who was appointed in January.
Another minister who had played an important role in the IMF negotiations, petroleum minister Osama Kamal, was replaced by chairman of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, Sherif Haddara.
Negotiations between Cairo and the IMF over the vital USD 4.8 billion loan have stalled, with the international lender calling for Cairo to implement harsh economic reform, significantly cutting expenditure.
New petroleum minister Sherif Haddarra will be tasked with finding a solution to the country’s costly fuel subsidy program. According to reports, Haddara has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The vacant minister of parliamentary affairs and minister of justice positions were also filled in Tuesday’s cabinet reshuffle, after the previous two ministers had resigned amid the on-going struggle between the president and the judiciary.
Former justice minister Ahmed Mekki had resigned on April 21 in protest to Brotherhood-organized demonstrations calling for a “purge” of the judiciary. Judge Mohamed Ahmed Suleiman was appointed as his replacement.
Egypt’s ministers of interior, defense and foreign affairs remained unchanged.
Deputy heady of the Freedom and Justice Party, Essam El-Erian, told Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian news channel that the main aim of the cabinet reshuffle was to “confront the economic crisis and to conclude the agreement with the IMF with new spirit and a new vision, and to confront the energy crises.”
However, the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) condemned the cabinet reshuffle. NSF member Hussein Abdel Ghani said: “The changes will only deepen the political crisis and state of polarization and block the way to any possible real national dialogue.”
Egyptian cabinet spokesman Alaa El-Hadidy announced the nine cabinet changes as follows:
[blockquote]Judge Mohamed Ahmed Suleiman was appointed Minister of Justice to replace Ahmed Mekki.
Judge Hatem Abdallah Bagato was appointed Minister of Parliamentary Affairs to replace Omar Salem.
Sherif Hassan Ramadan Hadarra was appointed Minister of Petroleum to replace Osama Kamal.
Ahmed Eissa was appointed Minister of Antiquities to replace Mohamed Saied.
Ahmed Mahmoud Ali El-Gizawi was appointed Minister of Agriculture to replace Salah Abdel-Moemen.
Fayyad Abdel Moneim was appointed Minister of Finance to replace Al-Mursi Al-Sayed Hegazy.
Amr Darrag was appointed Minister of Planning and International Cooperation to replace Ashraf Al-Arabi.
Alaa Abdel-Aziz was appointed Minister of Culture to replace Mohamed Arab.
Yaya Hamed was named Minister of Investment to replace Osama Saleh.[/blockquote]