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Egypt’s New Old Government

CAIRO – Egypt’s first-ever freely elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, has appointed his first cabinet, and guess what? It is crammed with officials from the old regime.

Morsi’s government clearly reflects the balance of power between the president and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). But it also reflects the strategy of the Muslim Brothers to shift that balance.

Thirty-five ministers were chosen by the new prime minister, Hisham Qandil, seven of whom (including Qandil) were ministers in the previous SCAF-appointed government. Five ministries – information, higher education, youth, labor, and housing – were given to the Muslim Brothers’ Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Other pro-revolution figures secured several cabinet portfolios as well: education, legal and parliamentary affairs, industry and foreign trade, and most importantly, the justice ministry.

The “power” ministries – interior and defense – were kept under the control of figures associated with the former regime. Field Marshal (and SCAF leader) Hussein Tantawy retained his post as Defense Minister, and General Ahmed Gamal al-Din was appointed to head the interior ministry, whose brutal behavior sparked the revolution.