Egypt appoints prime minister with old regime ties

Egypt has appointed a man with close ties to longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak to become the country’s new prime minister.

Egypt’s interim president, who was appointed after the military ousted the country’s elected president last summer, named Housing Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to head a new cabinet Tuesday.

Egypt’s previous caretaker government, which came to power following the July military coup, resigned Monday without giving a reason after presiding over one of the most turbulent periods in recent Egyptian history.

The cabinet’s sudden resignation appeared to pave the way for the country’s powerful military commander and defense minister, Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, to run for president. Sissi has yet to formally announce his candidacy in this spring’s presidential election. But he would have to resign from his post as defense minister to run, according to political analysts.

Analysts said some ministers would likely be reappointed to the new cabinet, and it remained unclear Tuesday whether Sissi would be one of them. Mahlab did not name any of the new ministers, but he said that some would be selected by the president, including the country’s defense minister.

As housing minister, Mahlab is likely to have worked closely with Egypt’s military, which controls most of the land in Egypt. As a member of Mubarak’s former ruling party, Mahlab also headed the Egyptian construction giant Arab Contractors for 11 years.

Some financial analysts speculated that Mahlab’s appointment could serve to facilitate business and development deals that Egypt’s military-appointed leaders are hoping will help jump-start the country’s faltering economy.

Egypt’s security forces have cracked down hard on voices of opposition in the eight months since the July 3 coup, while critics accuse the government of increasingly resuming the posture and opacity of military authoritarianism — a system that defined this country’s government for decades until Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011.

Also on Tuesday, a Cairo criminal court sentenced three members of a moderate Islamist party to three years in prison for distributing pamphlets last month that encouraged Egyptians to vote “no” in a national referendum on the country’s new military-backed constitution.

Sharaf al-Hourani contributed to this report.

Abigail Hauslohner covers City Hall for The Washington Post. Previously, she served as the Post’s Cairo bureau chief.
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