The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Next up in Brotherhoodization, the governors

I'm burying most of this post after the jump considering its rather dry subject-matter.

In my post on Egypt's recent cabinet shuffle, I noted the importance of nominating Mohammed Bishr, a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure who had previously been governor of Menufiya governorate (one of the FJP's biggest electoral challenge) to the Local Development portfolio. I see (via Beltone's newsletter) that he will have expanded powers in this post, notably the selection process of new governors — most or all of which will come from the ranks of Islamists:

Local Development Ministry plans Governor reshuffle; Islamists gain eight posts
Eight new Governors are to be appointed to Greater Cairo, Qena, Sharkia, Monoufia, Aswan, and the New Valley, said sources from the Local Development Ministry, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Some of the new Governors will come from the Salafi-oriented Nour Party, which was not represented in the recent Cabinet reshuffle, the sources said. Others will be drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. The reshuffling would be announced after monitoring authorities finish their reports and submit them to the political leadership. The reshuffling is also to include the transfer of a number of Governors to different governorates, the sources said. Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is to nominate governors for the border governorates, while Local Development Minister Mohamed Ali Beshir will oversee the whole process.

This is probably a more significant move than the cabinet shuffle. Governors have tremendous powers in Egypt, particularly ahead of an election. That all come from politics — the FJP and Nour parties — rather than the senior civil service, police, universities etc. as was the case under Mubarak is a striking change. It will certainly fuel the accusations of "Brotherhoodization" of the state, this time with some merit. Constitutionally, President Morsi has the right to appoint governors or delegate that privilege. It's one of the many shames of the new constitution it does not include mechanisms for direct election of governors and the empowerment of local government. Under Mubarak and his predecessors (and, in a sense, you could say at least since the Mamluks — historians could add a lot here) provincial governors were dispatched by the central state, not the local figures. This was in part because the highly centralized nature of governance in Egypt, and partly to avoid the accumuiation of local power and the rise of regionally grounded figures who could use provincial success as a springboard into national politics, and in particular the presidency. Here one gets the sense that Morsi is simply assigning governorships to loyalists to increase his control of the state at the local level, not reform the thinking about the relationship between the capital and the provinces. These governors are likely to bring in many of their own loyalists in turn, and work on the capture of municipal councils the way the NDP once did. It's also interesting to see them see it as necessary to bring in Nour — whether it's motivated by their size as a political party in the dissolved parliament or their more recent support for Morsi over the constitution is another question.

It is also interesting how Morsi will still honor the tradition of letting the military control the appointment of border governorates, too. The evolving arrangement becomes clearer.