Egypt announces new cabinet

Egypt's new prime minister Hesham Kandil and his cabinet were sworn in on 2 August, becoming the first government since the inauguration of the president Mohammed Mursi on 30 June.

The little-known Kandil promised that his administration would represent all Egyptians, attempting to counteract the widely-held belief that the cabinet would be guided primarily by Mursi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood. Although Kandil maintains he has no formal links with Egypt's Islamist political parties, he is a devout Muslim who is reportedly sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Three Brotherhood members took key ministries including information, higher education and housing. The information minister Salah Abdel Maksoud will oversee the state media, while a fourth Brotherhood member became a minister of state for youth which could grant the party more influence over religious indoctrination as well as giving it a bigger platform for recruitment purposes.

The defence portfolio went to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which stepped in to rule the country after the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak 17 months ago. Tantawi has been a dominant figure in Egyptian life for decades, and served as defence minister under the Mubarak regime for 20 years.

The 35 members of the cabinet are predominantly technocrats but also include members of the outgoing military-backed government who have retained their roles. These include two key ministries of finance (Mumtaz al-Saeed) and foreign affairs (Mohamed Amr Kamel), while the new investment minister Osama Saleh will be charged with introducing economic reforms to secure a $3.2 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The cabinet includes only two women – one of which is a Christian – highlighting the fact that women and minority Christians continue to be play a token role in government.

Meanwhile the fundamentalist Islamist party Al-Nour boycotted the government after it was only offered the environment portfolio which it rejected. It had requested the communication, local development and business sector ministries, according to a party spokesman.

The new cabinet faces tough days ahead and comes amid renewed sectarian violence and frequent power and water cuts in Cairo and across Egypt.