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.

 

Calm reigns over Gaza amid celebrations

US rules out coordination with Syria on targeting jihadists

UN moves to impose sanctions on Libya militias

Algeria president sacks Belkhadem

Saudi Arabia could earn $8.5 billion from Mecca pilgrimage

Mother of US hostage to leader of Islamic State: Please spare my son

Turkey ruling party officially approves Davutoglu as new PM

US spy agencies face difficult task in Syria

Saudi Arabia jails 18 militants on terror charges

Gazans breathe sigh of relief

Litany of horrors becomes regular fixture in jihadist-held Syria

Iraq forces mass for onslaught on jihadist siege of Amerli

Doha offers help to rebuild Gaza

Iran alters Arak heavy water reactor over Western worries

New Turkey PM leaves successor troubled legacy

Palestinians ‘reach’ long-term Gaza truce with Israel

Barzani: Iran provided us with weapons

US to track jihadists in Syria with spy planes

Top Iran official in Saudi to repair strained ties

Drums of war are beating anew on Capitol Hill

Israel air raid in Gaza kills two Palestinians

Deadly bus tragedy in Egypt

Car bomb rips through Baghdad intersection

Shebab flee Somalia strategic town in latest advance of African troops

South Sudan warring leaders sign fresh ceasefire deal

Who’s funding extremists? Qatar struggles to clean up tarnished image

Abadi calls on militias to come under Iraq state control

Nile dam row at heart of talks in Sudan

Ansar Sharia calls for jihadist unity in Libya

No let-up in Gaza war as Egypt raises new truce proposal

Thousands march in support of Yemen President’s call for national unity

Syria reaches out to former foes in fight against ‘terrorism’

Libya parliament names new army chief

Egypt warns only disarmament could spare Libya from intervention

Egypt offers new Gaza ceasefire

Iran to Israel: we will arm Palestinians

American held hostage for 22 months in Syria freed

Iraq calls for global support in fighting jihadists

Iran bolsters arsenal with new drones and missiles

Arab ministers discuss ‘rise of extremism’ in Saudi Arabia

In Jordan, students stay home as teachers strike

Iran ‘shoots down’ Israel drone near Natanz nuclear site

Netanyahu vows to maintain Israel offensive in Gaza ‘as long as necessary’

Libya neighbours meet in Egypt amid serious concerns

Zarif meets Ashton in September to discuss framework for renewed talks