Ganzouri named prime minister to mixed reactions

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi officially appointed Kamal al-Ganzouri to form a national salvation government on Friday with full powers to carry out his job.

Ganzouri, 78, said he accepted the position after Tantawi emphasized he does not want to remain in power.

An official source, who asked to remain anonymous, said Ganzouri was selected due to his long ministerial experience. The source added that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was not swayed by certain liberal powers' rejection of Ganzouri, because “political powers will never all be fully satisfied with any one choice.”

The source said that Ganzouri was given the authority to choose ministers who represent all political forces, adding that “if Ganzouri is rejected by some forces, the powers he has and the choices he will make will satisfy them.”

Al-Masry Al-Youm has learned that Ganzouri was chosen after several presidential candidates declined the position, and other nominees were rejected by certain figures. The position became vacant after former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s government resigned over mass protests across Egypt, during which at least 42 people have died in confrontations with security forces.

Informed sources said the new government is likely to include some ministers from Sharaf’s government, most notably Minister of Finance Hazem al-Beblawy, Minister of Social Solidarity Gouda Abdel Khaleq, and Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abouelnaga and Foreign Minister Kamel Amr.

At a press conference yesterday Ganzouri said he asked Tantawi for time to select ministers and does not expect to do this before the first phase of parliamentary elections begins on Monday.

Ganzouri said he has come to serve the nation and asked youth coalitions and revolutionary movements to put forward nominees for ministerial positions. He added that Sharaf’s government was good but that he did not know the majority of its members.

He said a decision will be made very soon to grant him powers that far surpass those of his predecessor.

Waheed Abdel Maguid, general coordinator for the Democratic Alliance, an electoral bloc led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said the choice of Ganzouri is good, but that he must meet with all political powers in order to come to an agreement about the new government.

He said that for the Democratic Alliance, how the affairs of the country are run is more important than the identity of the premier.

Mohsen Rady, a senior member of the Freedom and Justice Party, also said the premier's identity at this stage is not important. “What is important is that he receives national consensus, protects the goals of the revolution, achieves its targets and takes the side of the people.”

But for protesters in Tahrir Square who are staging a sit-in to demand the military hand over power, Ganzouri is not an acceptable figure. His appointment does not meet their demands, said activist Shady al-Ghazaly Harb, adding that protesters had suggested many alternative figures for the office including presidential hopefuls Mohamed ElBaradei and Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh.

The 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition also announced Thursday evening that it rejected Ganzouri's appointment.

Ganzouri spent 17 years in power under the rule of Hosni Mubarak, who dismissed him from the premiership in October 1999 after he gained considerable popularity. At the time it was said that Housing Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Suleiman, Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali and Information Minister Safwat al-Sherif caused a rift between him and Mubarak, who was himself wary of Ganzouri’s growing popularity.

Ganzouri is held responsible for the sale of thousands of feddans of land to Saudi Prince Walid Bin Talal, as part of the Toshka mega-project, which was intended to reclaim half a million acres of desert. His decisions to privatize the Steam Boilers Company and Pepsi, and to sell the first mobile operator license to the private sector, were also severely criticized.

He was accused of not being open to criticism and of failing to invest in people.

Ganzouri was also blamed for allowing banks to grant loans to businessmen without sufficient regulations, which brought heavy losses to the banking system.

Under his premiership, Egypt started four mega-projects which economic analysts say ate into the state budget. Ganzouri blamed his successor, Prime Minister Atefd Ebeid, for the failure of Toshka.

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