CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Islamist president is to swear in a new Cabinet on Thursday as tensions are rising over the country's tenuous security, recent sectarian violence and growing popular discontent over issues such as widespread water and power outages.
The ceremony comes a little more than a week after President Mohammed Morsi named political novice Hesham Kandil as prime minister. The U.S.-educated Kandil is scheduled to announce the Cabinet lineup, and then he and his ministers are to be sworn in by Morsi.
The new government will be Morsi's first since taking office June 30, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted in a popular uprising nearly 18 months ago, and will be scrutinized for signs of whether the new president has kept his promise of a diverse, inclusive Cabinet.
Kandil, who is in his 40s, served as water minister in the outgoing, military-backed government and his Cabinet — according to official media reports — will include several members of that administration, including the finance and foreign ministers.
The military generals who took over from Mubarak in February 2011 handed over power to Morsi, but not before they stripped the new president of significant powers and declared themselves as the country's legislative authority after dissolving the Brotherhood-dominated parliament. The military also has control over the process of drafting Egypt's new constitution.
An incomplete list of the new Cabinet, released Wednesday, shows that only two known members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood will be included — taking the key posts of higher education and housing. However, many in Egypt will be looking for how many Cabinet members, while not members of the Brotherhood, are Islamists sympathetic to the group.
The radical Islamist Al-Nour party, which supported Morsi in his presidential bid, decided to boycott the government after it was only offered the environment portfolio. It had wanted the communication, local development and business sector ministries, according to a party spokesman.
Also, Morsi's choice of Kandil, a devout Muslim reported by Egyptian media to be sympathetic to the Brotherhood, has angered the liberals and leftists behind last year's uprising against Mubarak.
Additionally, the incomplete lineup published by the official media includes only two women — one of them also a Christian — and signalled Morsi's failure to give women and minority Christians more than the token representation they had under Mubarak's 29-year authoritarian rule.
The new government comes to office during what is perhaps one of the worst bouts of unrest since the days and weeks that immediately followed Mubarak's Feb. 11, 2011 ouster.
Sectarian violence in the past week in Dahshour village south of Cairo saw a Muslim mob torching Christian homes and damaging the local church, which forced many Christian families to flee the village Wednesday. Lengthy power and water outages in Cairo and across the nation of some 82 million people have been sending thousands to the streets to protest daily. In many cases, protesters cut off roads or attacked government offices.
The outages have deepened the suffering of Egypt's mainly Muslim population, coinciding with the dawn-to-dusk fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year falls during the scorching July and August heat. During Ramadan, devout Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and worldly pleasures.
In other violence, mobs angered by poor quality of medical care given to their sick relatives, have repeatedly attacked staff at outpatient wards of government hospitals.
The popular discontent has spread to the gates of Morsi's presidential palace in Cairo's leafy suburb of Heliopolis where hundreds gather every day to express a wide range of grievances or to demand jobs, better medical care or housing. Morsi opened two offices to receive citizens' complaints.
The offices attracted thousands who hoped the new president will redress perceived injustices or meet their demands, but hope was soon replaced by despair when nothing was done and applicants returned to protest.
The new government also comes as Egypt's economy is fast sliding, with more than half of foreign currency reserves wiped out in the last 18 months, and tourism, a mainstay of the economy, wildly fluctuating to reflect unrest in the country.
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