Accessibility links

Mixed Reaction Follows Egyptian Government Reshuffle - 2004-07-10

The resignation of Egypt's government has raised hopes for much needed change. But the appointment of a new prime minister, Ahmed Nazief, who is virtually unknown and untried in politics, is causing some unease among analysts.

The outgoing Cabinet of Prime Minister Atef Obeid had been widely criticized for its inability to deal with widespread corruption, high unemployment and a declining standard of living.

Former Egyptian diplomat Abdullah Al Ashaal says the new Cabinet will have to deliver on the promise of reforms to convince the skeptical public.

"I think that this reshuffle is in direct response to the pressures coming from everywhere, from inside and from outside," he said. "And if this is the program of change that we need, I hope that it will be very drastic and essential. But if President Mubarak wants just to make some sort of blend between the old and new, just to show that he is responding to the wishes of the people, by changing names, I think this will be a big failure."

Chairman of the parliament's Education Committee and member of the ruling National Democratic Party Hossam Badrawi sees the appointment of the new prime minister, 52-year-old Ahmed Nazief, as a positive step. He says Mr. Nazief is committed to the reforms announced by his party last year, but not implemented.

"It is exactly what we need," said Hossam Badrawi. "Younger generation, more modern and more proactive, and believing in free thinking and free economy. His positions on a lot of things are the positions of policies that have been published from the policy secretariat of the NDP. These are policies that he shared in writing, and he is part of it. So, he is a prime minister coming with a mandate, and with policies for the next 10 years to be implemented."

But the head of the Political Science Department at Cairo University, Hassan Nafae, disagrees. He says the new prime minister, who served as communications minister in the previous government, is a technocrat with no political vision. Mr. Nazief's appointment, he says, merely strengthens President Hosni Mubarak's power, and ends all hope of serious reform.

"There is a great disappointment in the street," he said. "Not because they have [a] negative impression about Nazief,[but because] most of the people I talk to consider that this is not the right man for this particular moment. Everybody is talking about political reform. This is not the man who will be leading political reform in Egypt."

The only positive development, says Mr. Nafae, is the replacement of ministers who have been in power for decades with a younger generation of officeholders.