Islamist domination of presidential team stirs reservations

The announcement of the formation of President Mohamed Morsy's presidential team on Monday has stirred controversy, with opponents saying it totally excluded the opposition and is dominated by Islamists.

Opponents referred to Morsy’s promise to appoint a woman and a Copt as deputies if he were elected president during a news conference on 29 May.

Activist George Isaac told state-run newspaper Al-Ahram on Monday that the opposition has been bypassed in the formation of the presidential team. He said it was important to have a representative of the opposition to reflect its opinions on various issues.

Ayman Nour, leader of the Ghad al-Thawra Party, shared the same feeling, telling Al-Masry Al-Youm that half of the presidential team is from the Brotherhood and the Salafis, who are joined by some technocrats — but no liberals.

Observers believe Islamists, either independent or affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Nour Party, seized nearly two thirds of posts on the presidential team.

Reviewing the resumes of the assistants and advisers reveals that 14 out of the 21 names declared have Islamist sympathies.

The team members, which were announced on Monday, consist of four assistants and 17 advisers and represent various Islamist factions as well as independent figures.

The four assistants include:

—    Pakinam Sharqawi, a political science professor, who will act as the presidential assistant for political affairs.

—    Samir Morkos, a Coptic writer, who will act as the presidential assistant for democratization.

—    Essam al-Haddad, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood member, who will serve as the presidential assistant for foreign affairs and international cooperation.

—    Emad Abdel Ghafour, the leader of the Salafi-oriented Nour Party, as the presidential assistant for national dialogue.

The team also includes 17 advisers of various public figures including media host Amr El Leithy, secular journalist Ayman al-Sayad and nationalist writer Sekina Fouad.

This means that the team includes three members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau: Essam al-Erian, acting chairman of the group's Freedom and Justice Party, and Mohie Hamed, a member at the group's office on Sharqiya, along with Haddad.

It also includes Coptic writer and activist Rafik Habib, the only Copt that holds a senior position in the FJP, as well as Omaima Kamel, the party's women secretary

Salafis are represented in the formation by Abdel Ghafour, Bassam al-Zarqa, the party's secretary, and Khaled Alam Eddin, a marine science professor who had refused the post of Environment Minister in the current cabinet.

There are also two Islamist-leaning academics: Pakinam Sharqawi, a political science professor, who will act as the presidential assistant for political affairs, and Seif Abdel Fattah, professor of Islamic political thought.

Islamic thinker and former presidential candidate Mohamed Selim al-Awa was also named in the presidential team, in addition to Ahmed Omran and Ayman Ali, both known for their Islamist orientations.

Islamist domination was not the only problem for critics, who also expressed concerns over the large number of advisers and the obscurity of their powers.

Some say that a number of independents selected for the presidential team do not possess a considerable experience in public work, citing Mohamed Essmat Seif al-Dawla as an example.

The vagueness about the exact role and structure of the presidential team also raises concerns about how genuinely the new president is interested in taking advice from a team of aides and consultants outside the scope of the Brotherhood.

Sharqawi told DPA that “the coming days will bring more clarity as of the distribution of roles of each member of the team.” She added that those roles would be set out in detail after Morsy returns from his China trip

Asked to what degree the new presidential team is able to address problems remaining since the Mubarak era, Sharqawi said, “It is a heavy legacy; we are here talking about a manifold state body where corruption had been legalized, and our mission would be to motivate its workers to build a modern democratic state.”

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