Sisi remains Egypt defence minister as new cabinet sworn in


Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi smiles during his meeting with Russian Defense Minster Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, on Feb. 13, 2014.



Egypt's army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is expected to stand for president, was retained as defence minister in the new cabinet sworn in Saturday, state television reported.

The new line-up led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab was unveiled after Hazem al-Beblawi's government resigned on Monday amid mounting criticism of its failure to tackle a floundering economy and worsening industrial unrest.

The new cabinet is tasked with organizing a presidential election that is expected to bring Sisi, who is also a vice prime minister, to power.

Sisi, who has emerged as Egypt's most popular political figure since he led the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July, has not yet announced his candidacy in the election scheduled for this spring.

However, his aides say he has already decided to stand. In order to do so, Sisi must first step down as defence minister and army chief.

One of his aides told AFP this week Sisi is expected to stay on as defence minister until an electoral law has been passed.

The new government faces a host of challenges including huge security problems and economic woes, ahead of the election seen as a major step in a roadmap outlined by the interim military-installed authorities after Morsi's ouster.

Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected and civilian president, was ousted following mass protests against his one-year rule which was marred by allegations of power grabbing and worsening an already dilapidated economy.

Analysts say the formation of a new government is likely to work in Sisi's favour as he would like to stand in the election with a government that has a good record.

Since July, Egypt has been battling deadly street violence and militant attacks that have scared off foreign investors and tourists alike.

Beblawi's government had become increasingly unpopular despite announcing two economic stimulus packages aimed at kick-starting the economy with funds provided by friendly Gulf Arab states.

Many Egyptians, weary of the three years of turmoil since the 2011 toppling of former strongman Hosni Mubarak, view Sisi as a strong hand who can restore stability.