It is too early to judge the policies or the performance of Hesham Qandil’s government, but it is a suitable time to judge the political significance of its makeup and what this represents.
The selection of ministers in Qandil’s government is the first real step towards creating President Mohamed Morsy’s administration. During his first month in office, Morsy did not make any decisions with tangible political significance. He met with many people representing different segments of society, launched a couple of minor initiatives and granted a raise to public sector employees. None of these actions signalled a significant change in state policies. The selection of ministers is Morsy’s first politically significant move, and his choices raise several important issues.
Firstly, this new government demonstrates an ongoing mutual accord between the President and the military on spheres of influence. Influential ministers from Ganzoury’s government remain in their old positions, mainly in the treasury, defense and foreign affairs. Meanwhile, the Minister of Interior was changed, but only to be replaced by his assistant.
In other words, the government that was marched against by the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party (headed then by Morsy) was maintained in essence in the new selection. Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Treasury and Defense are the ones directly related to state policies. They represent the political and administrative infrastructure for any change in policy, and they were left intact. Therefore, the perceived dispute between the President and the military was not a policy dispute, but rather one of procedure and protocol. It was easily resolved by maintaining the military’s selections in key positions and expanding the Islamist and pro-Islamist presence in other positions depending on the availability of rank.
Second, Qandil’s government failed a test of political diversity. At a time of growing skepticism between different political forces and the absence of a legitimate constitutional document organising the mechanics of governance, the presence of a politically diverse government was essential. Qandil’s government is divided between the Freedom and Justice Party and former regime faces. Failure to reflect political diversity in the new government could be related to two things; an inability to define political diversity or inability to administer political diversity. Failure to define political diversity means that Morsy’s administration cannot accurately map the different political forces and place the correct value and weight of each, something that the Muslim Brotherhood is probably more than capable of.
Therefore, it is more likely that the absence of political diversity is due to the inability to administer it. Failure to administer political diversity means that the administration won’t allow diversity to materialise, it may allow representatives of different political forces to be present in government but won’t necessarily give them a platform to voice their own political visions. The numerous names that declined positions in the new government signal this inability to administer diversity.
The new government’s administrative performance remains to be seen and hence, awaits critique or praise. But what is obvious from day one is that this new government, along with Morsy’s administration, has failed an important political test.