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.

 

Tunisia votes for president in final leg of democratic transition

Barzani in Mount Sinjar after end of jihadist siege

Egypt President removes powerful spy chief

UAE blames 'irresponsible' non-OPEC output for oil price plunge

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Turkey acquits sociologist over 1998 explosion

EU foreign affairs head to visit Iraq

Turkey court remands Samanyolu TV chief in custody

IS threatens to kill Lebanese soldiers held hostage

Obama concerned about Egypt mass trials

Tough times for oil-rich GCC

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004

Saudi to carry on massive public spending

Iran to Australia: We warned you about the gunman

From bikini to Jihad in Ceuta, Melilla

Tunisia votes Sunday in second round of presidential poll

Islamist militias launch air strike near key Libyan oil terminals

Egypt refers 312 Islamists to military courts

Turkey rejects EU criticism over media arrests

Kerry meets chief Palestinian negotiator

Saudi cleric sparks uproar for showing wife’s face

15,000 march against country’s ‘Islamisation’ in eastern Germany

Key oil producers face uncertain outlook in 2015

Gulf stock markets tumble

Australia mourns Sydney cafe siege victims

Hostages flee as police storm Sydney café

Erdogan to EU: Mind your own business!

Syria PM in Iran for talks with key ally

22 Swiss jihadists fighting abroad

#illridewithyou: Australians stand in solidarity with Muslims

Sydney siege 'lone wolf' or IS-led attack?