The reported SCAF appointment of Kamal Ganzouri to head a new cabinet, replacing Essam Sharaf, is one of several steps the military leadership is taking to try to quell demonstrators’ anger without meeting their main demand: that the SCAF relinquish power now. The SCAF perhaps will try to portray the appointment of Ganzouri, who was prime minister under Mubarak from 1996-99, as constituting the formation of the “national salvation government” sought by demonstrators and political parties.
But that idea seems unlikely to fly. While Ganzouri is at pains to prove his revolutionary credentials (see his hastily-updated Wikipedia bio), according to al-Jazeera demonstrators in Tahrir on November 24 greeted the news of his appointment with raucous jeers, chanting “we don’t want him”—not exactly reassuring words for any politician. The SCAF reportedly offered the post to Amr Moussa and perhaps Mohamed ElBaradei as well, but they apparently declined, having no desire to discredit themselves ahead of planned presidential campaigns. Because what is on offer, at least for now, is a nightmare of a job: heading a weak cabinet while the SCAF continues to hold full executive authority and make all decisions, until a president is elected.
Another idea the SCAF seems to be playing with is the formation of some kind of civilian advisory body, another way the SCAF could appear to be including civilians while in fact retaining full control. Amr Hamzawy, a liberal candidate for the People’s Assembly and my former colleague at the Carnegie Endowment, vented his frustration with this idea in his November 25 column in al-Shuruq. While this might have been a good idea nine months ago, he writes that now “Egypt does not need an advisory committee to generate ideas or concepts. It is far too late for such attempts. What we need is simply serious administration during an interim period so that institutions can be formed that will have the legitimacy to govern the country once they are vested with authority via parliamentary and presidential elections. With the legitimacy of the military in crisis now, the only option we have is to transfer legislative and executive authority to a national salvation government.” And I doubt that a Ganzouri-led cabinet under continuing SCAF control is what Amr has in mind.
Photo Credit: Arab News