First Posted: 7/16/2013
CAIRO — Egypt’s interim leader on Tuesday swore in the first Cabinet since the military ousted the Islamist president, giving members of the country’s liberal movements key positions and naming three Christians and three women, their highest numbers in an Egyptian government.
The new government is led by Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, an economist. Army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Mohammed Morsi on July 3, retains his post as defense minister and also took the position of first deputy prime minister, an additional title given to defense ministers in the past.
The Cabinet of more than 30 ministers does not include any members of Islamist parties — a sign of the deep polarization over the removal of Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president. The interim president’s spokesman had earlier said posts would be offered to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, but the group promptly refused.
The Brotherhood has said it will not participate in the military-backed political process and vows to continue protests until Morsi is reinstated. The swearing in of the Cabinet took place hours after overnight clashes between police and Islamist supporters of Morsi left seven protesters dead in the worst outbreak of violence in a week.
The new government, sworn in by interim President Adly Mansour, reflects the largely liberal, secular bent of the factions who backed el-Sissi’s removal of Morsi.
Women have a somewhat higher profile, with three ministries — including the powerful information and health ministries. Most past governments for decades have had at most two women in them.
The Cabinet also includes three Christians, including one of the three women, Environment Minister Laila Rashed Iskander.
The Morsi-appointed interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, remains in his post, in charge of the police. Nabil Fahmy, who was Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1999-2008, becomes foreign minister.
In a nod to the revolutionary youth groups that engineered the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the massive protests that preceded Morsi’s ouster, Mansour renamed the justice portfolio the transitional justice and national reconciliation ministry and gave it to Mohammed el-Mahdi, a career judge.