CAIRO -- President Mohamed Morsi reshuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday, strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power and angering the opposition amid Egypt’s economic turmoil and political unrest.
The naming of nine new ministers underlines the nation’s troubling schisms and how powerless the opposition is in stemming the Brotherhood’s grip on the government. Morsi ignored opposition demands for a consensus Cabinet and the removal of Prime Minister Hisham Kandil.
Two of the new appointments -- Amr Darrag as planning minister and Fayad Abdel Moneim as finance minister – will preside over a sagging economy and critical negotiations for a $4.8-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Both men are Islamists, which may worry investors concerned about the government’s commitment to free markets.
In addition to Kandil, Morsi retained another key supporter, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who has been criticized by activists for police brutality, torture and crackdowns on anti-government protesters. The opposition accused Morsi of choosing an unimaginative Cabinet that will not heal economic and political woes before parliamentary elections expected in October.
“The challenges are great and the new cabinet will not be able to deal with the situation,” said opposition leader and former presidential candidate Amr Moussa. “Does this new lineup not reflect another step toward complete Brotherhoodization? Would it not have been better to make a different step that reflects movement toward national unity?"
It is the second major government overhaul since Morsi took office in June. The reshaped government now includes at least 10 ministers –- up from eight -- with ties to the Brotherhood or its dominant Freedom and Justice Party. The Brotherhood controls nearly one-third of the Cabinet.
Ahmed Mekki, once considered a reformer, was replaced as justice minister by Judge Mohamed Ahmed Soliman. Mekki had offered his resignation a number of times, most recently last month after thousands of Islamists demonstrated in Cairo to “cleanse” the courts of judges with ties to the former regime of toppled leader Hosni Mubarak.
The dispute highlighted the battle between Morsi and the judiciary. The president blames thousands of judges appointed under Mubarak for disrupting Egypt’s political transition. The judges claim the government, to advance the Brotherhood’s Islamist agenda, has repeatedly ignored judicial decisions, including reinstating a general prosecutor whom Morsi fired.
The makeup of the new Cabinet suggests, however, that Morsi and the Brotherhood believe they can remain in control without the political consensus that the opposition and Western powers have been urging for months.