Egypt’s president swears in new government




Egypt’s newly elected President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Tuesday chaired the first meeting of his new Cabinet, shortly after its members were sworn in at the presidential palace in Cairo.

There are 13 new faces on board, including Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri who was Egypt’s ambassador to Washington and who replaced veteran diplomat Nabil Fahmy.

The government has 34 ministers — including four women and several technocrats — and is led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, who also served as the interim premier for the past five months.

Mahlab was the second person to fill the post of prime minister since el-Sissi ousted Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, last July, following massive protests against the Islamist leader and his Muslim Brotherhood.

El-Sissi, the country’s former army chief and defense minister, was sworn in as president earlier in June, following his landslide election victory last month. He has pledged to restore security, improve the country’s battered economy and build a more stable future after three turbulent years since the ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

El-Sissi has also said there will be no tolerance for those who took up arms against the government and Egyptians — a thinly veiled reference to Morsi’s supporters.

Since Morsi’s removal, his supporters have held near-daily demonstrations, which have been met by a fierce crackdown by security forces that has killed hundreds and arrested thousands. Suicide bombings and Islamic militant attacks prompted the government to declare the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The group denies any link to violence while an al-Qaida-inspired group has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.

Morsi and many of the top Brotherhood leaders have been jailed and are facing a series of trials, mostly in connection to violence associated with the protests.

For the first time, the Cabinet doesn’t include the Information Ministry, the government body that for decades has overseen state media, keeping them to a close government line supporting official policies and rallying support for the leadership.

The move is in line with the newly adopted constitution, which calls for an “independent institution” to regulate media and the press.

After Mubarak’s 2011 ouster, activists and free media advocates called for abolishing the ministry and state media. The transitional military council that took power after Mubarak’s removal initially agreed to the move, but then reinstated the ministry. Egypt’s new parliament — which is to be elected within months — has a mandate to pass legislation that will regulate the work of the new media body.

Also missing is the Ministry of Administrative Development while a newly created ministry is supposed to tackle the problems of Cairo’s sprawling slums and major Egyptian cities.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said the first Cabinet session focused on security efforts and counteracting all attempts to destabilize Egypt, according to the state MENA news agency.

The report said the government also discussed traffic safety after traffic accidents killed 6,700 people in the last year alone. The Cabinet ordered more radar control points and 250 traffic cameras for Cairo alone.