CAIRO — When Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was elected in late June, he promised to represent all Egyptians by forming a government inclusive of women, Christians, youth and even artists and intellectuals.
Although the president said he heard the voices of all Egyptians, the much-anticipated government announced last week has proven to be a disappointment for many as a setback to the ideals that propelled the revolution that last year toppled Hosni Mubarak.
The new Cabinet drew on Islamists and technocrats as well as senior bureaucrats from the previous Cabinet, which was appointed by a military council that still holds considerable political power. Two of the Islamists were given key posts as ministers of information and education.
Egypt’s acting Christian Coptic leader said the government formed by Prime Minister Hesham Kandil was unfair for “ignoring” the rights of the Copts, which make up almost 10% of the country’s 82 million people.
“I will not congratulate the prime minister on the new government because the formation is unjust,” Bishop Pachomious told Egypt’s Al Shorouk newspaper. The bishop added that the new government should have included at least four Coptic representatives among the 35 ministerial positions, including four new posts.
Only two women were named to the government, including Nadia Zukhari, who is also a Copt. Making up almost 52% of the population, women who stood alongside men in the uprising that deposed Mubarak continue to feel ignored a year and a half after the revolution.
“The process of forming the government was fake. Giving women or Copts one or two minor posts does not mean you are being inclusive,” said Salma Nakash, a researcher at Nazra Feminist Studies and a women’s rights advocate.
Nakash said she is not only frustrated because the president failed to include enough women but also because he did not consult with female politicians or intellectuals.
Egypt’s ultraconservative Islamist group the Salafist movement, which controlled about 25% of the recently dissolved parliament, was not included in the new government. Al Nour, the movement’s political arm, criticized Morsi for failing to confer with its party’s members.
As the country moves to draft a new constitution, many liberals, secularists, Christians, women and non-Muslims are focusing on a document that will protect civil rights at a time when military and the Islamists are pushing for wider powers.
“The constitution is the answer,” said Youssef Sidhom, editor in chief of Watany, a Coptic daily. “I am more interested in seeing a man stand up for women’s rights or a Muslim defend Christian rights. But to even say we need a woman to defend women or a Copt to defend Christians shows that Egypt is still very much unwell.”
— Reem Abdellatif
Photo: A handout photograph released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, center, posing for a photo with members of the new government, including its only two women, following the swearing-in ceremony on Thursday. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency / Ahmed Fouad.