Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has replaced 10 members of his cabinet, signalling a harder Islamist line for his administration.
The major ministries involved — interior and finance — were filled by candidates chosen more for their loyalty to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood than for anything else.
Eight other ministers were given the boot and replaced by more ideologically compatible men.
The Egyptian leader appointed new cabinet members during the Sunday ceremony in what he hoped would help rescue an economy that has been on the decline since the 2011-uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. Yet, the political affiliations underlined more than Morsi’s plans for fiscal reform, a Cairo University professor told the Reuters news agency.
“Dr. Morsi would like to be sure that he has a cabinet that shares his major orientations,” said Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a political science professor. “He wants to be surrounded by like-minded ministers.”
The new finance minister, Al-Morsi al-Sayyed Hegazi – an Islamic finance specialist – took the place of Mumtaz al-Said who had resigned late last year over government policy disagreements.
Interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim, a police boss who had recently been tasked with overseeing prisons, replaced Mohammed Ibrahim, who had resigned in December along with the former finance minister.
The remaining eight positions – with portfolios including transport, development, and trade – were reportedly filled by politicians sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. Initial reports did not indicate which of these ministers actually belonged to the political arm of the Brotherhood, called the Freedom and Justice Party.
It doesn’t appear that competence was a very important factor in choosing cabinet members. The new finance minister’s expertise is in “Islamic finance” which is quite different from the western-style international banking and financial system most of the rest of the world uses and which Egypt must tap in order to get loans that will prop them up for the foreseeable future.
The Brotherhood’s grip on power in Egypt is tightening, and Morsi’s control is expanding. Not a promising turn of events for the opposition.