Egypt’s president on Tuesday designated a young, U.S.-educated irrigation minister as the new prime minister to form a government.
The designation of Hesham Kandil comes nearly a month after President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, was sworn in as Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president — a reflection of the difficulties Morsi has had in putting together an administration.
Morsi had promised to pick someone from outside his Muslim Brotherhood group to lead a unity government. The military, which took power after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year, still hold overriding control over much of Egypt’s politics, leaving it unclear what the new prime minister’s powers will be.
Particularly in question is whether he and Morsi will be able to name the heads of key ministries overseeing foreign relations, state budgets and security forces, where there is deep resistance to the Muslim Brotherhood president. Already, the military has said the government will not be able to appoint a defense minister.
Kandil, who is in his 40s, is the minister of water resources and irrigation in the outgoing, military-appointed government. He earned his masters and doctorate at the University of North Carolina and later worked at the African Development Bank, focusing on Nile Basin countries. He was also part of an observer mission for Egypt in talks with Sudan on Nile water issues.
“The appointment of a patriotic, independent figure was studied and discussed in order to select a person capable of managing the current situation efficiently and effectively,” said Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali.
Kandil was brought into the government after Mubarak’s fall. His young age stands in stark contrast to current Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, 78, who is a Mubarak-era prime minister who served from 1996 to 1999 and was reappointed to the post in late 2011. The choice of el-Ganzouri deepened the anger of protesters in November who were already seething over the military’s perceived reluctance to dismantle the legacy of the ousted president’s 29-year rule.
Since Morsi’s win, the Brotherhood has been squeezed by the military’s grip on authority. Just before he took office, the military dissolved parliament, which was led by the Brotherhood and other Islamists, and the generals took over legislative powers as well as other authorities.