Samer al-Atrush, AFP
Last updated: 26 June, 2012

Egypt’s Morsi gets to work on cabinet and economy

President-elect Mohamed Morsi pushed ahead on Tuesday with selecting a government of mostly technocrats amid delicate negotiations with the ruling military on its future powers, aides said.

Egypt’s first civilian president, and its first elected leader since an uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak early last year, went straight to work after he was declared the election winner on Sunday, a senior aide said.

Following a riveting and deeply polarising contest against former Mubarak premier Ahmed Shafiq, the Islamist must now try to live up to campaign pledges he undertook to gain the support of pro-democracy groups in defeating Shafiq.

The former senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood will try to select a government that will be inclusive of the other political forces that reluctantly supported him against Shafiq.

Morsi, who resigned from the Brotherhood after his win, also has to contend with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will retain broad powers even after it formally transfers control at the end of June.

On Monday, he met Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of SCAF, which took power after president Hosni Mubarak resigned early last year following a popular uprising.

After the country’s top court declared the Islamist-dominated parliament to be null earlier this month, the military assumed legislative powers as well and will dominate a powerful national security council headed by Morsi.

“All these details are on the table for discussion,” said a senior aide to the president-elect on Tuesday. “Nothing has been settled yet, and no decision has been taken.”

The military also reserves the right to appoint a new constituent assembly should the one elected by parliament be disbanded by a court decision expected on September 1. The Brotherhood has insisted that only parliament can appoint the assembly.

On Tuesday, a court suspended a government decree passed earlier this month that allowed the military to arrest civilians after an appeal by rights groups.

Another senior aide to the Morsi said the president-elect was conducting talks to appoint an “independent national figure” as his premier.

“Most of the cabinet will be technocrats,” he added, requesting anonymity because the presidency had not yet settled on its official spokesman.

On Monday, Morsi met the head of the government-appointed cabinet, which submitted its resignation but will continue in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is sworn in.

The official Al-Ahram newspaper reported on Tuesday that Morsi was considering Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei or former finance minister Hazem Beblawi for the post of prime minister.

Beblawi told AFP that he was abroad and had not yet been contacted.

Morsi was also “deep in study to fine tune his programme’s priorities,” the president-elect’s aide added.

He has pledged to restore security and improve the economy, in tatters since the anti-Mubarak uprising, to tackle fuel shortages and organise the cities’ traffic and garbage problems.

Morsi’s main priority will be to try to check the downward spiral of the country’s battered economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

The Cairo stock exchange closed up 7.5 percent on Monday at 4,482.48 points, its largest single-day increase in more than a year, amid optimism that the official announcement of a president would help stabilise the country.

But ratings agency Standard and Poor’s said it was placing its ‘B’ long-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign ratings on Egypt on CreditWatch with negative implications.

“The CreditWatch placement reflects our view of at least a 50 percent likelihood of a downgrade over the next three months,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday it is ready to help Egypt to restart growth and deal with other economic challenges, a spokesman said in a statement,

“Egypt faces significant immediate economic challenges, especially the need to restart growth and address the fiscal and external imbalances. The IMF stands ready to support Egypt in dealing with these challenges and looks forward to working closely with the authorities.”

An IMF package had been delayed before the election as the lender insisted on agreement among Egypt’s political forces on the aid.