First Published: 2014-02-25

New Egypt PM begins with promise to revive tourism sector
Analysts say formation of new government is likely to work in favour of army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Middle East Online

By Jay Deshmukh - CAIRO

New government ‘in three to four days’

Egypt's military-installed authorities named a former member of ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak's ruling party as prime minister Tuesday ahead of a presidential election expected to bring the army chief to power.

Ibrahim Mahlab, a former state-sector construction boss, vowed to fight "terrorism" and bring back tourists as he began work on forming a new cabinet after the surprise resignation on Monday of Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi.

Beblawi's government had been installed in July after the military ousted Islamist Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president and its first civilian one.

But it resigned in the face of mounting criticism of its failure to get to grips with a floundering economy and worsening industrial unrest.

Mahlab said that interim president Adly Mansour had tasked him with forming a new government "in three to four days" and promised to work hard to improve services for Egyptians and fight "terrorism."

"This will create the conditions for investment and the return of tourism," he said.

Since Morsi's overthrow, Islamist militants have killed several foreign tourists as well as scores of security personnel in attacks that have severely dented the economically vital tourism sector.

A limited reshuffle had been expected to allow army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to step down as defence minister and run for president.

But Sisi, who is expected to win the election this spring, will retain his post in Mahlab's cabinet for around two weeks until an electoral law has been passed, a senior official said.

Mahlab, a former chairman of Egypt's state-owned Arab Contractors Company, one of the Middle East's leading construction conglomerates, was named to the upper house of parliament in 2010, the year before Mubarak's overthrow in the Arab Spring uprising.

Mahlab, who is now in his 60s, resigned from the company in September 2012 after heading it for 11 years, the state-owned daily Al-Ahram said.

Beblawi's government had become increasingly unpopular despite announcing two economic stimulus packages aimed at kickstarting the foundering economy with funds provided by friendly Gulf Arab states.

But his government's resignation took even Washington by surprise.

"Obviously we're watching it closely," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Sisi, who emerged as the country's most popular political figure after ending Morsi's divisive one-year rule, has not yet announced his candidacy for the president, but aides say he has already decided to stand.

The field marshal, who was also first deputy prime minister in Beblawi's cabinet, has to resign from the government and the army before he can officially announce his candidacy.

Analysts say the formation of a new government is likely to work in Sisi's favour.

"If Field Marshal Sisi decides to run, he would like to run with a government that has a good reputation and can help him by resolving some of the urgent problems faced by the people," said Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a political science professor at Cairo University.

Since July, Egypt has been battling deadly street violence and militant attacks that have scared off foreign investors and tourists alike.

A bloody crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists supporters has left more than 1,400 people dead.

Many Egyptians, weary of the three years of turmoil since Mubarak's ouster, view Sisi as a strong hand who can restore stability.

 

UN Syria peace talks begin in Geneva

Israel to deny Human Rights Watch visas for being ‘biased’

Iraqi forces enter IS-held west Mosul

Suicide bomb attack on rebels kills 51 near Al-Bab

Marrakesh clinches top ranking of African urban life

UN considers Syria sanctions over chemical attacks

Saudi Comic-Con slammed as ‘sin’ in online backlash

Jordanians protest government price hikes

Baghdad coordinated anti-IS airstrikes with Damascus says source

New Hamas Gaza leader makes first public appearance

Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli soldiers in West Bank

Jordanian F-16 crashes in Saudi, pilot survives

Iraqi PM says air force strikes IS targets in Syria

UN slams light sentence for Israeli soldier

Saudi king seeks investment on rare Asia tour

Saudi minister discusses hajj with Iran

136 Turkish diplomats, soldiers seek German asylum since coup

New Hamas ‘strongman’ could spell fresh Israeli conflict

Suicide car bomb kills eight outside Yemen army base

Fired Turkish academics protest ‘unjust’ dismissals

Iraqi forces jovial after Mosul airport entry

Syrian rebels announce capture of flashpoint town from IS

Iraqi forces enter IS-held Mosul airport

Swedish citizen jailed for IS Facebook post

Somalia names new prime minister

Netanyahu backs pardon for Israel soldier who shot Palestinian

UN envoy meets Syrian rivals, hopes of breakthrough slim

Yemeni government forces pin back rebels on coast

Israeli Supreme Court appoints deeply right-wing judges

Hundreds of Australians protest Netanyahu

Yemen rebel fire kills policeman on Saudi border

UN condemns Israel's new West Bank demolition plans

UN envoy says Russia asked Syria to halt bombing during talks

Bahrain arrests 20, approves military trials for civilians

Israel blocks EU lawmakers from Gaza entry

Syrian migrant on trial in Austria over 20 murders

UN says rapes, killings still blight Darfur

Yemen president says Saudi saving $10 bn for reconstruction

Top Yemen commander killed in missile strike

New Somali president says ability to deal with nation's problems 'limited'

Israel lifts ban on basketball team playing in Turkey

Arab League condemns Israeli soldier’s lenient sentence

Turkey lifts ban on Islamic headscarves in army

Israeli ministry orders removal of Haifa ammonia tank

Iraqi forces ready for assault on Mosul airport