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February 25, 2014

Egypt Names Mahlab New Prime Minister

by Edward Yeranian

Egypt's president has named outgoing housing minister Ibrahim Mahlab as the country's new prime minister. Mahlab addressed the nation Tuesday and said he hopes to have a new government in place within the “next three or four days.”

Mahlab, who was also an official in deposed President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party, gave a mostly jovial address on state TV, downplaying the critical issues facing the country. Journalists grilled him about Egypt's security situation and the economy, and he gave mostly blunt answers.

He insisted his chief priority as prime minister will be to restore security to the streets and vowed to "crush terrorism in all corners" of Egypt.

Violent protests, scattered acts of terrorism and unruly labor strikes have created insecurity and paralysis in parts of Egypt since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi last July, and the outlawing of his Muslim Brotherhood group.

Mahlab skirted a journalist's question about whether outgoing Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who is expected to run for president, was going to be part of the new government. He said it is the role of the new government to supervise elections for a new president of the republic, and that the current interim president is responsible for filling crucial “sovereign” ministerial portfolios, like that of defense minister.

Presidential elections are widely expected to take place in April.

Mahlab told journalists that he expected to form his new government “within the next three or four days, God willing,” and he stressed that one of his priorities would be to “provide logistic and material support for the police.”

Mahlab went on to address the crucial issue of economic unrest, insisting that Egypt “is a country of limited resources,” and that it was “the duty of everyone to be reasonable over his demands” in labor negotiations. The country's transport workers have been on strike for the past several days, creating traffic jams in parts of the capital, Cairo.

Meanwhile, courts in Alexandria sentenced 220 mostly Morsi supporters to prison terms ranging from three to seven years for instigating violence and demonstrating without a permit last August in the aftermath of Mr. Morsi's fall.  The sentences were handed down by three courts in the city.