A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Morsi's Presidential Team

President Morsi in Egypt named his Presidential advisory team yesterday, and it's a subject of considerable debate. While he has named a smattering of liberals, the overwhelming coloration is Islamist, in various forms.

The most important posts (presumably: all the job descriptions are a little vague) are the four Presidential Assistants. Morsi had originally seemed to promise that he would name a Copt and a woman as Vice Presidents, but his one Vice President so far, Muhammad Mekki, is a respected jurist. He has, however named a woman and a Copt among his four Presidential Assistants. The Copt is Samir Morqos, a respected writer, who is the assistant for "democratic transition"; the woman is Prof. Pakinam AL-Sharqawi, a political science professor who is assistant for political affairs, and who is considered a moderate Islamist with sympathies for, but not a member of, the Muslim Brotherhood. The other two assistants are Imad Abdel-Ghaffur, head of the Salafi Al-Nour Party, who is in charge of "national dialogue" or "social communications" (your guess is as good as mine), and Essam Ahmad al-Haddad, a member of the Brotherhood, who will be in charge of foreign affairs and international cooperation. Only Morqos is not an Islamist.

The 17-member Advisory Board is also heavily weighted towards Islamists, with a few technocrats. The sole Christian is Rafiq Habib; I've written about him before. He's not a Copt, but an Evangelical Protestant in the Presbyterian tradition, and he is a Vice President of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political front; he's not taken seriously by most Egyptian Christians. Other members of the council include Essam al-Erian, head of the FJP and a prominent Brotherhood figure who recently infuriated leftists by a Twitter posting denouncing them.

Reports on the appointments here, here and here; The Arabist's assessment here; Zeinobia's here; the Atlantic Council here.

With continuing concerns about the directions Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are moving, especially in the field of press freedom but also foreign policy, this set of appointments offers at best a few grains of hope intermingled with an overly Islamist cast of characters. As The Arabist does note, man liberals have reportedly declined offers from Morsi, so it may be that he simply can't recruit anyone else, but that's far from clear.

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