The Brothers of the Cabinet

News article, posted 08.10.2012, from Egypt, in:
Noha El-Hennawy, Yahia Shawkat, Omar Halawa, Rana Khazbak
The Brothers of the Cabinet (Photo: Al-Masry Al-Youm)

Despite secular groups’ frenzy about state institutions being headed and dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Cabinet formation came against all expectations. Only five out of the 36 ministers appointed by President Mohamed Morsy and Prime Minister Hesham Qandil are affiliated with the Brotherhood or its Freedom and Justice Party. They are the higher education, youth, housing, information and manpower ministers.

With so many ministries outside the Brotherhood’s scope, its famous Renaissance Project, the platform of Morsy’s presidential campaign, won’t come to life, predicted Hassan Abu Taleb, researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies.

“The Renaissance [Project] is now a delayed project until things stabilize and the president’s powers become clear with the new constitution,” he said.

There has been some speculation over whether this government will complete its term or whether another would be appointed after a new constitution is in place.

Abu Taleb said he thinks many people, including Muslim Brothers, might have wanted to wait for a more guaranteed post.

“Another reason could be that the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP have very limited caliber among their ranks that can take responsibility in such a critical time,” he said.

However, American University in Cairo political science professor Manar al-Shorbagy argued that “the Brotherhood took the portfolios that is has talking about as important to it all along.”

“This is their goal; they want to start change through education and youth,” Shorbagy said.

Who are the new ministers?

Khaled al-Azhary: The labor chief

Khaled al-Azhary, 46, appointed to the Manpower Ministry, is a former MP, former deputy for the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions, a member of the Constituent Assembly and a Freedom and Justice Party leader. He is the fourth manpower minister since the 25 January revolution, a period that saw multiple protests and strikes by both private and public sector workers and employees.

Several observers have said Azhary’s appointment is an attempt by the Brotherhood to spread control over the labor sector and to issue a new law on trade union freedoms to replace Law 35/1976, which violates the laws of the International Labor Organization. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that the Brotherhood’s position on recent labor protests has wavered between support and criticism.

While the Brotherhood supported the protesting workers at ceramics giant Ceramica Cleopatra and intervened to achieve their demands, heaping pressure on factory owner Mohamed Abul Enein — a former National Democratic Party leader — it accused striking workers at the state-owned Mahalla factory of treason, saying they had state security agents among their ranks.

Azhary was a member of the dissolved Parliament’s manpower committee, which prepared a draft law to replace the current labor unions law. The proposed law sparked the anger of labor leaderships because it would have banned the establishment of independent trade unions and syndicates after their number hit 260 after the revolution.

The proposed law also would have prohibited the formation of multiple staff committees at a single factory or company, after 800 such committees had been formed in violation of the law. In an interview with Egypt Independent in May, Azhary said the law proposed by the FJP would protect labor from chaos, while the formation of multiple staff committees at factories and the establishment of independent trade unions would devastate the country’s economy.


[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]