HALA ELKHOLY >Old faces in Egypt’s new Cabinet

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Those who aspired for real socioeconomic change in Egypt will have to hold their breath a while longer. Although clearly the top leadership has changed, early indications have clearly favored maintaining the status quo. The final announcement of the 35 Cabinet ministers Thursday, headed by appointed Prime Minster Hesham Kandil, left much to be desired. Retaining eight of the previous government ministers, and adding four new ministries, the final official picture looked very much like ones Egyptians have been seeing for many years. One difference this time is more of them are first timers and therefore unknown to the public. Certainly not a political team, the new government was hailed as a body of efficient technocrats who hope to render the existing system effective.

In the absence of a political track record and information on the criteria for their choice, there is little more to do than wait and see to appreciate their performance. Meanwhile, frustrations mount as expectations and aspirations of a major change seem severely challenged. For the many who oppose vehemently the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party that ultimately brought president Mohamed Morsi to power, a not-much-change scenario might seem favorable. For the 80-year-old Brotherhood, it is an aspired-to golden chance. A first take of the Cabinet members sworn in Aug. 2 by the president, reveals a balanced share for the two ruling powers in Egypt, political Islam and the military.

Egypt has not changed much yet. Early on, both the military and the Brotherhood stood out as the competing rivals for power. Both have maintained strong claims of supporting the revolution as they engaged in lethal negotiations to establish their shares and political understanding. The setup so far seems to be acceptable to both. They now need to turn close attention to the fires in the streets of Egypt. In the past 18 months, speculations have been that both institutions had much to do with instigating violence in the streets, unruly dissent in major production centers, creating a major supply crisis and many of the images of chaos that have surrounded Egyptians throughout. The fear is that much of it could spiral out of their control if the traditional firefighting mindset does not make way for effective strategies to deal with the root causes accumulated over many years. 

Beyond the subjective descriptions of events and the characterizations of them, one cannot deny that the majority of Egyptians had had enough and the bubbling under the surface was observable many years before the revolution. Almost everyone in Egypt would have supported the replacement of Hosni Mubarak in favor of a better way of life and rule. Those who created the opportunity for change were quickly overruled by none other than Mubarak’s political rivals who pounced readily on the window of opportunity for power. Without major signs of a change in strategy to relieve Egyptians from their daily sufferings, and visionary plans to create a prosperous future for the country, change will again be suffocated by control and consolidation of power.


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