CAIRO -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has named a little-known bureaucrat as his new prime minister to form a government whose powers, especially regarding the military and intelligence services, will likely be held in check by a cadre of generals.
The appointment of Hesham Kandil, water minister under the outgoing military-appointed Cabinet, kept with Morsi’s vow that his prime minister would not be drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party. Morsi, who ran as a Brotherhood candidate, is under pressure from secularists and Christians not to form a government dominated by Islamists.
Kandil faces enormous challenges. The country is beset by deep economic problems, intensifying political divisions, religious mistrust and the tight grip of the military, which controls legislative powers and has limited the authority of the president. Morsi’s credibility will hinge on how quickly Kandil’s unity government can finesse political compromises and stem unemployment, inflation and low wages.
The selection of Kandil, an engineer not widely known outside Egypt, ended weeks of intrigue over whether the new prime minister would be a high-profile figure. A number of leading politicians, including Islamists and liberals, have shied away from overtures by Morsi to fill certain positions. It is unclear whether Kandil’s association with the old Cabinet will taint him or the military will give him leeway in naming ministers for defense and the interior.
Kandil’s ascendancy, first reported by the official state news agency, came as a surprise to many. The news website Ahram Online put it this way: “President Morsi met Kandil at the presidential palace on Sunday but his chances of being offered the premiership were dismissed by many observers, who said he was too young and lacking in political experience.”
Since Morsi was sworn in last month, he has attempted to wrest power from the generals, who seized control of the country after Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011. The military dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and has assumed a number of presidential duties. A court ruling on whether the army should cede more authority to Morsi is expected in coming days.
-- Jeffrey Fleishman
Photo: This April 4 photo shows Hesham Kandil posing for a portrait in Cairo. On Tuesday, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi Kandil as the prime minister designate. Credit: Associated Press