Relative unknown Hesham Qandil becomes Morsy premier pick

Ahmed Aboulenein
7 Min Read
A handout photograph released by the Egyptian Presidency, shows Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (R) meeting with newly appointed Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil (L) on July 24, 2012 at the Presidential Palace in Cairo.
A handout photograph released by the Egyptian Presidency, shows Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (R) meeting with newly appointed Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil (L) on July 24, 2012 at the Presidential Palace in Cairo.

After weeks of delays that stretched over a period of time that included historic trips to Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, and multiple missed deadlines promising the imminent selection of one of several rumoured candidates, President Mohamed Morsy named Hesham Qandil, the irrigation and water resources minister in the Ganzouri cabinet, as his new prime minister.

Morsy promised the candidate would be announced several times during his first 25 days, while rumours swirled around the possibilities that Morsy was mulling to choose one of the candidates disqualified in the first round of presidential elections.

There were tales of multiple offers followed by multiple rejections by the likes of Mohamed ElBaradei, and even the possibility that Morsy would appoint himself.

The announcement of Qandil, a relative unknown to those outside of water resource and Nile Basin Treaty circles, seemed to signal that Morsy was intent on choosing a candidate familiar with the details of government rather than politician with an ideological base that could galvanise people around the new cabinet.

Morsy quickly tasked Qandil with forming a new cabinet.

Many political observers believe Qandil will form and lead a technocratic cabinet lacking charisma but focused on the minutiae of governing.

Qandil was reportedly in a meeting of the Supreme Committee of Nile Water with outgoing Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri when the announcement was made.

Qandil will be replacing El-Ganzouri who resigned following Morsy’s election but was tasked with leading his cabinet in a caretaker capacity until a new premier was appointed.

Morsy promised to appoint an independent figure that would gain the approval of all political forces.

There had been a debate on whether he should appoint a politician or an apolitical technocrat.

Qandil falls in the latter category.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr in August of 2011, Qandil said he was not “affiliated to any Islamist parties.”

He also told the interviewer that he grows his beard because he abides by the “Prophet Muhammad’s Sunna.”

Qandil held a press conference on Tuesday and announced that the majority of his cabinet ministers would also be technocrats and that “merit will be the basis on which ministers would be chosen.”

He added that there were some “political considerations” he would take into account, however.

“The formation of the cabinet will be done in complete coordination with the president,” Qandil told journalists.

“I would like to thank the President of the Republic for his valuable trust and for his entrusting me of this noble mission,” he added.

According to Qandil, Morsy’s 100-day program will be at the forefront of the cabinet’s priorities.

The government will focus on the five main principles of security, traffic, garbage, fuel and bread outlined in Morsy’s project and that water would be added to the list of top priorities.

“The cabinet’s goals will be achieving the president’s program and fulfilling the goals of the revolution,” said Qandil.

He added that each minister would be given full powers and authorities within their portfolios.

Morsy met with members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in order to reach consensus over who the minister of defence in the next cabinet would be, Qandil said.

SCAF Chairman Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi has been the defence minister in seven successive governments since 1991.

It is expected that we will continue in that role until a new constitution is drafted and ratified.

Qandil also said that the current Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim might keep his post.

“The current minister has done a good job with regards to security and stability on the streets,” he said.

He added that he will get to choose his ministers but that the final decision rests with the president.

Qandil was first appointed as Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources in former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s second cabinet in July 2011.

El-Ganzouri chose to retain his services after he replaced Sharaf in December.

“I was a member of both the Sharaf and Ganzouri cabinets and would like to thank both men and show them my appreciation for their efforts during this difficult time of Egypt’s history.

The Ganzouri cabinet in particular has not stopped working until the last second,” he said.

He met with Morsy on Sunday in the presidential palace as part of the negotiations regarding naming the new prime minister.

Not much is known about Qandil, 51, except that he has worked in the Ministry under the Mubarak-era Minister of irrigation.

He received his Masters degree from the University of Utah and PhD from the University of North Carolina.

Qandil has been on the frontlines of Egypt’s negotiations with several African nations regarding the Nile Basin Water Treaty and the development of equitable distribution for the countries that straddle the Nile River.

He has worked on several water development projects in Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, and Ethiopia.

Qandil similarly served as chief economist for the Bank of Africa Water Resources.

Caretaker Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri will resume his duties alongside his cabinet until Qandil forms his own.

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Ahmed Aboul Enein is an Egyptian journalist who hates writing about himself in the third person. Follow him on Twitter @aaboulenein
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