CAIRO – Egypt’s Islamist president swore in his first new government Thursday, led by a devout Muslim and including five members of his Muslim Brotherhood in unglamorous but ideal ministries for a group whose long-term aim is to Islamize the most populous Arab nation.
The Cabinet is a far cry from the inclusive administration that President Mohammed Morsi has repeatedly promised. No other political factions came on board to join. Women and Christians received only token representation, and figures from the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year were left out.
The choices seemed aimed at playing down fears that the country’s first-ever government formed under the Muslim Brotherhood’s aegis will seek to impose quick and radical change.
Seven members of the outgoing, military-backed government, including the foreign, finance and culture ministers, have also kept their jobs, a move by Morsi and Prime Minister Hesham Kandil that may have been designed to inspire stability.
Also keeping his post as defense minister is Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who served in the role for 20 years under Mubarak and was Egypt’s military ruler for 17 months after Muabrak’s ouster.
The military said several weeks ago that it will decide who serves in the post, and Morsi and Kandil made no move to resist, a reflection of the overwhelming powers retained by the military after Morsi took office June 30.
Kandil, the obscure water and irrigation minister that Morsi picked to lead the new government as prime minister, sought to defend the makeup of his Cabinet. He called on Egyptians to rally behind it, promising it would represent all the people.
We are all Egyptians in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The coming period is not easy, to say the least, and we are all in the same boat, he told a news conference hours ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.
This is the people’s government. It does not belong to this or that trend.
He also paid tribute to last year’s 18-day anti-Mubarak uprising, saying his government will work toward realizing the goals of its slogan: Bread, freedom and social justice.
The government takes office at a time when tensions are mounting over the country’s seemingly endless woes – tenuous security, sectarian violence, and growing popular discontent over widespread power and water outages and shortages.
In a sign of the chaos, one person was shot to death by police Thursday when a crowd of hundreds went on a rampage against a Nile-side luxury hotel in central Cairo.
The crowd threw firebombs at the hotel, smashed its lobby and set fire to 10 cars parked outside, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk the press. Police used tear gas and opened fire on the crowd, killng one person.
Also Thursday, armed villagers in Bani Suef south of Egypt attacked a police camp after reports that a policeman harassed a local woman. The gunbattle at the camp left one villager dead and five others wounded.
Residents then attacked the governor’s office, shattering windows and setting fire to police cars.