Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Egypt awaits new Cabinet

STEP TOWARD CHANGE President Hosni Mubarak appointed technocrat Ahmed Nazief as prime minister on Friday and gave him a day to form a new government


The resignation of Egypt's government was lauded by newspapers yesterday as "the first steps of change," reflecting wide disenchantment with the administration that had been criticized for failing to bring about sorely needed economic, political and social reforms.

Following the Cabinet's resignation on Friday, President Hosni Mubarak appointed a new prime minister, Ahmed Nazief, and gave him a deadline of yesterday to form a fresh Cabinet.

The Cabinet's resignation had been long expected and the appointment of virtually unknown former state information and communications minister as the premier consolidates Mubarak's power at a time of growing calls for sweeping change in the Arab world's most populous state.

"Finally what we want has happened and the first steps of change have begun," Samir Ragab, editor-in-chief of al-Gomhouriya newspaper wrote in an editorial.

While noting some achievements of the outgoing Cabinet, Ragab said former prime minister Atef Obeid "has flooded us with rosy comments that have nothing to do with reality, maybe because he wanted to turn dreams into reality. But in the end the results were the opposite of that and not what the people wanted and longed for."

The reshuffle follows a much-publicized reform movement headed by Mubarak and his 41-year-old son, Gamal, who has drawn attention since his father appointed him head of the ruling party's policy-making committee in 2002.

The president named the 52-year-old Nazief, to run Egypt's day-to-day activities, replacing the 72-year-old Obeid, who was prime minister for four years.

Mubarak's choice of Nazief follows a pattern of appointing technocrats rather than more politically inclined lawmakers to the post, a situation critics say is designed to ensure political power is not placed in the hands of a potential challenger to his presidency.

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mubarak had given Nazief 24 hours to form a new Cabinet.

Al-Ahram, Egypt's largest semiofficial daily, reported yesterday that Mubarak himself would choose the interior, defense, justice and foreign ministers.

Nabil Abdel Fatah, an analyst at the government-funded Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Mubarak needed to make "drastic change ... in his eternal policy of appointing technocrats while avoiding politicians."

One positive point he noted, however, was the resignation of Egypt's old guard and their possible replacement by "a new generation who was never given space before."

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