Tantawi ruled the country after Mubarak's ouster early last year
Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi smiles during a meeting with US General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (not seen) at the ministry of defence in Cairo on February 11. Tantawi, will remain as defence minister, a post he held under ex-president Hosni Mubarak, in the new cabinet announced on Thursday, said Prime Minister Hisham Qandil. © Khalil Hamra - AFP
Tantawi ruled the country after Mubarak's ouster early last year
AFP
Last updated: August 2, 2012

Tantawi to remain as Egypt defence minister

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi swore in a new cabinet on Thursday that retained military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as defence minister while giving the Islamists and their allies several portfolios.

The cabinet, which took office more than a month after Islamist Morsi, reflects a precarious balance of power between the president and the military, which retains broad powers after transferring control to him.

Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Said, who served in a military-appointed government, will keep his post.

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party took five cabinet seats including higher education and the information ministry, which regulates the media.

Ahmed Mekki, a former appeals court deputy judge who sided with the Islamists when the constitutional court disbanded in June the parliament they had dominated, was appointed justice minister.

Only two women, both from the outgoing government, were included in the 35-member government team -- Nadia Eskandar Zukhari at scientific research and Nagwa Hussein Ahmed Khalil at social affairs.

Zukhari is the only member of the cabinet of the Coptic Christian minority, which represents about 10 percent of the population.

Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, a self-described devout Muslim whose appointment dismayed Morsi's secular election allies, said he chose the ministers based on their competence.

"The main principle, the main criterion, was competence," he told a news conference.

"We should stop using such terms as them and us, and that this is a Christian, or a Copt, or a Muslim. All I see is Egyptians and citizens," he said.

"We are the people's government; we do not represent any trend," he said.

The little-known Qandil was irrigation minister in the outgoing cabinet before Morsi appointed him last week.

Qandil, a senior manager at the African Development Bank before heading Egypt's Nile Water Sector, has denied that he had belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood or any other party.

He said the cabinet, including eight ministers of state, will have to tackle the "enormous" economic and security challenges facing the country since Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in February last year.

In all, seven ministers will remain from the outgoing military appointed cabinet, including Said and Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr.

Former prime minister Kamal Ganzouri will become a presidential adviser, state media reported.

Morsi, who campaigned on promises to revive Egypt's economy and quickly restore deteriorating security, is eager to push through his programme with a technocratic government, his aides have said.

He met his new cabinet after it took office and tasked it with pushing through his "100 day plan" to restore security and facilitate fuel and food supplies, MENA reported.

But he must still contend with the military, which has been historically suspicious of the Islamists, and which controls the budget and retains legislative authority after a court ordered the Islamist-dominated parliament disbanded in June.

The military also dominates a powerful national security council headed by Morsi.

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