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.

 

Iraq launches operation to drive ‘Islamic State’ from Anbar

Soldier kills comrades in Tunisia barracks shooting

Oxfam: 16 million Yemenis have no access to clean water

Fukushima nuclear plant wins Qatar contract

Morocco's majestic cedars threatened by climate change

Washington Post reporter goes on trial behind closed doors in Iran

Kuwait restores Islamist lawmaker's citizenship

New airport in restive eastern Turkey

Iran ‘thwarts’ US cyber attack on Oil Ministry’

Pro-government fighters retake Yemen city from Shiite rebels

Egypt opens border crossing with Gaza for 48 hours

Litany of problems keep Iraqi army weak and ineffective

Rouhani: most Iranians favour peace

Iran Foreign Minister discusses Yemen conflict in neutral Oman

Palestinians dismiss Netanyahu initiative

Three Moroccans jailed for homosexuality

US, Iraq at loggerheads over Ramadi

Netanyahu names rightist ally as new Foreign Ministry chief

Iraq rejects US criticism of security forces over defeat in Ramadi

Hezbollah captures hilltops from Qaeda wing in Syria

Saudi Shiites hold mass funeral for victims of mosque bombing

Sudan targets newspapers in major media crackdown

Iran looks forward to total lifting of sanctions

Syria regime launches air raids around Palmyra

Hezbollah urges broad support for ‘existential battle’ in Syria

Fierce fighting rocks Yemen as peace hopes fade out

Olmert sentenced to eight months for corruption

Nobel Prize-winning John Nash killed in car crash

Blow to Yemen peace efforts as UN conference postponed

US accuses Iraq forces lacking will to fight IS

Weakened by war, Syria regime appears ready for ‘de facto partition’

Iran army ‘needs bigger budget to counter IS’

Saudi Shiites refuse to be provoked by deadly mosque bombing

Iran denies agreement on inspection of military sites

Emirati aid shipment arrives in Yemen port city of Aden

GCC denies air campaign against IS terrorists has failed

Tripoli leaders use migrant issue as they yearn for recognition

‘Islamic State’ takes full control of Iraq-Syria border crossing

Saudi king vows to punish those behind bombing at Shiite mosque

Sudan's Islamists protest against el-Sisi

Saudi mosque attack intended to fan sectarian tension

Islamic State claims Saudi mosque bombing

Israel solicits Platini to sway FIFA

Islamic State reinforces ‘caliphate’ with control of borders

Israeli deputy FM: 'All of it is ours'