In a move that came as a surprise to many politicians and political experts across the globe, Egypt’s first freely-elected civilian President Morsi appointed Hesham Kandil to serve as the country’s prime minister.
Kandil’s appointment comes only a month after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi was sworn in as Egypt’s president. Morsi agreed to include other political factions in the unity government, promising to name a prime minister from outside of the Brotherhood. According to Egyptian state TV, Kandil does not have any affiliation with Islamist groups or political parties.
However, with a rather daunting role ahead – to turn around Egypt’s economy and national security after close to 1.5 years of political instability and turmoil – Kandil brings with him a rather extensive background and portfolio. Although said to be independent from political parties, he is religious on a personal level (previous comments to the media include several religious references).
Kandil is an engineer by profession and pursued his masters and doctorate degrees at the University of North Carolina system's North Carolina State University. He has worked at the African Development Bank and served as part of Egypt’s observer mission with Sudan on Nile River water issues. Kandil served as the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation in the outgoing military-appointed government following the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Even with his U.S. education and young, independent political appeal, Kandil has not yet captured support across Egypt. Opposition figures, including the liberal Social Democratic Party, refuse to participate in any form of unity government with the Brotherhood, claiming that Kandil, although not part of the Brotherhood, has very similar ideology.
The Egyptian markets experienced a small sell-off after Morsi’s appointment of Kandil as prime minister, as many would have preferred to see a leader with some economics background.
The prime minister’s role is still unclear, with much of Egypt’s governing still in the hands of the military. And with that, despite concerns for the economy and political civility, it is far too soon to make any judgments about Hesham Kandil’s ability to help Egypt’s economy, tourism, and foreign investments recover after such an extended period of national strife.