Bloomberg News

Egypt’s Mursi Appoints Water Minister to Form New Cabinet

July 24, 2012

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi had pledged to appoint a nationalist figure to the premiership in a push to address the needs of the country’s various political groups. Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi named the little-known Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Hisham Qandil as prime minister, state media reported.

Qandil was asked to form the government in the very near future, the Middle East News Agency said, citing Mursi spokesman Yasser Ali. Qandil “is an independent, nationalist figure who does not belong to any political group, either before the January 25 revolution or after it,” Ali said.

Mursi, Egypt’s first elected civilian leader, had pledged to appoint a premier from outside his own political group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The president is seeking to ease political tensions and revive an economy still struggling a year and a half after the uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

“Ninety-nine percent of Egyptians probably never heard of him before,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha Center, said of Qandil in a phone interview. “That is both an advantage and disadvantage for Mursi, but I think most people were expecting someone with more stature and a bigger profile, someone who can shake Egyptian politics up.”

Egypt’s benchmark EGX 30 Index of stocks extended its decline to 1 percent at 1:30 p.m. in Cairo. The yield on the country’s 5.75 percent dollar bonds due 2020 was little changed at 6.62 percent.

‘Economic Background’

The U.S.-educated Qandil, who was said by the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper to be 49, wasn’t among the top names circulated in the Egyptian media over the past three weeks as potential prime ministers. Those candidates were largely drawn from financial backgrounds, including the current and former heads of the central bank and former finance ministers.

“The market had hoped that the prime minister would have an economic background to implement the reforms needed to get the Egyptian economy back on track,” Anthony Simond, a London- based emerging-markets analyst at Aberdeen Asset Management Plc., said by phone. “It doesn’t appear that he has this experience.”

In an interview on August 9 with Al Jazeerah Misr television, Qandil said he’s not affiliated with any Islamist groups and identified himself as “a moderate.”

Before he was appointed to the Cabinet under Essam Sharaf, who took over as premier in March last year after Mubarak’s ouster, Qandil served as a water resources expert at the African Development Bank, according to a biography posted on the Freedom & Justice Party’s Facebook page. He took part in talks on sharing the Nile’s waters and was a member of a joint Egyptian- Sudanese Nile waters authority, according to MENA.

His selection by Mursi is a “surprise, and goes back to the era of technocratic prime ministers,” Ayman Nour, an opposition politician who challenged Mubarak for the presidency in 2005, wrote on his Twitter account.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net


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