Unsurprisingly, the main headlines of Wednesday’s papers, both state-owned and independent, feature Hesham Qandil, Egypt’s first prime minister under President Mohamed Morsy.
Qandil was an irrigation minister in the post-revolution cabinets of Essam Sharaf and Kamal al-Ganzouri.
The long-anticipated presidential decree came as Morsy faced harsh criticism over delays in forming a new government since he took office on 30 June.
State-run Al-Ahram covers a press conference in which Qandil said that the new government would be comprised of technocrats, adding that he would complete the formation of his cabinet in the “near future,” without providing a definite timeline.
Speaking about the sovereign ministries — those of defense, interior, foreign affairs, justice — Qandil said that both Morsy and the military council would cooperate on the process of selecting the new ministers, the paper reports.
At the same conference, presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said that Qandil's appointment came after in-depth discussions to reach a consensus over choosing a person capable of managing the current transitional phase.
For some politicians and activists, however, Ali’s words did not sufficiently clarify the criteria by which Qandil was chosen.
Wednesday’s privately owned papers feature extensive coverage of the controversy that erupted over the appointment, which was described in the top headline of the Wafd Party’s newspaper, Al-Wafd, as “Shock choice.”
Independent Al-Tahrir allocates a two-page spread for parties, politicians and government officials voicing their conflicting opinions.
The paper quotes journalist and author Sekina Fouad, head of the Democratic Front Party, as saying, “Morsy was supposed to announce the reasons behind this choice,” adding that Egyptians know nothing about Qandil, except that he was in charge of the Nile Basin initiative, with which "he did not achieve real progress.”
In his statement to Al-Tahrir, the presidential spokesperson justified the appointment by saying that Qandil fulfills Morsy’s standards for a prime minister: a patriotic and independent figure experienced in Nile water issues. “Qandil was found to be the best candidate among others based upon much study and expert opinions in this field,” he said.
On page five of independent daily Al-Shorouk, Ahmed Khairy, spokesperson for the Free Egyptians Party, belittled such standards, asserting that the country is in dire need of an economic expert to surpass the current bottleneck, a qualification that Qandil lacks.
The newly-appointed prime minister’s beard has raised doubts over his Islamist affiliations.
Former housing minister Hasballah al-Kafrawy told privately-owned Al-Watan in an ironic tone: “Qandil had no qualifications to support his taking up office except wearing a beard.”
Khaled Talima, a member of the 25 January Revolutionary Youth Coalition, echoed Kafrawy’s clear message in the same paper. “Everyone knows that Qandil is affiliated with the Brotherhood’s ideology,” he said. “His appointment was announced according to a decision made in a [Brotherhood] Guidance Bureau meeting.”
However, Saber Abul Fatouh denied such allegations stressing, “The new prime minister’s beard does not mean he’s linked to the Islamic trend.”
Freedom and Justice, the mouthpiece of the Brotherhood’s political arm, publishes a story featuring a list of politicians and Brotherhood figures who see hope in Qandil’s future in government. The feature lacks diversity in opinion, which highlights the paper’s strong allegiance to the president, who hails from the group.
Besides the heated debate over Egypt’s new prime minister, the protests organized in front of Abdeen presidential palace manage to find a space on Al-Shorouk’s front page.
The report states that heavy security measures were imposed after a number of protesters threatened to storm the palace to meet the president. On Monday, protesters blocked the gate of the presidential palace, accusing officials in the citizens' complaints office — set up by Morsy — of ignoring their grievances.
A number of people with special needs joined the sit-in to demand improvements to their living conditions, including taking up governmental posts and better medical services, the paper adds.
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Youm7: Daily, privately owned
Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned
Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party
Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party