Egypt has announced a cabinet reshuffle that removes two ministers closely involved in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and increases the representation of President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in the government.
The opposition had been demanding the installation of a politically neutral cabinet to oversee parliamentary elections later this year.
Egypt’s Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, announced the nine changes to his cabinet on Tuesday.
These included the appointment of Amr Darrag, a senior official in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), as planning minister.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said: “This [appointment] is interesting because it is one of the key ministerial posts in negotiation with the IMF over the long-awaited $4.8bn loan; it could be seen as an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to play a larger role in key economic processes.”
The outgoing minister, Ashraf al-Arabi, had played a central role in talks with the IMF about a $4.8bn loan seen as crucial to easing a deep economic crisis. Egypt has yet to seal a deal with the IMF.
Fayyad Abdel Moneim, a specialist in Islamic economics, was appointed as finance minister, replacing Al-Mursi Al Sayed Hegazy, another expert on Islamic finance who was appointed in January, the last time Qandil reshuffled the cabinet.
Abdel Moneim received a doctorate from Al-Azhar University in Islamic economics in 1999.
Yehya Hamed, another Brotherhood member, was appointed investment minister. The new cabinet includes at least 10 politicians affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood or the FJP, compared to eight in the old one.
Ahmed Suleiman was named as justice minister, replacing Ahmed Mekky, who resigned last month in protest at efforts by Morsi’s allies to make changes to the judiciary.
The ministers of interior, defence and foreign affairs were left unchanged.
The government has been widely criticised for failing to revive an economy that is in deep crisis because of more than two years of political turmoil.
“We don’t expect the opposition to be happy with this reshuffle,” said our correspondent. The National Salvation Front (NSF), a loose alliance of opposition parties, “had one specific demand that the prime minister should be changed. That didn’t happen. They view him as too weak and too close to the president and the Muslim Brotherhood group.”
Hussein Abdel Ghani, an NSF member said: “The changes will only deepen the political crisis and state of polarisation and block the way to any possible real national dialogue.”