Curious is the process by which 13 new governors have been appointed across Egypt. It's as if most of them were picked a by a modified version of Hosni Mubarak. The new governors include no youth and most of them have served in the police, the military or the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The appointments do not reflect a country that has just undergone a revolution. Instead, they seem to suggest that Egypt’s youth are incapable of playing a leading role during the interim period and that there are no qualified candidates. The new governors have been selected on the basis of the same old standards.
Residents of Alexandria, Qena, Daqahliya, and Minya have rejected their newly appointed governors. Residents of Qena and Daqahliya have protested the appointment of Emad Mikhail and Mohsen Hafazi, two former police officers (the sectarian aspects of the Qena protests notwithstanding). These protesters are not opposed to the police in general (which society sorely needs) but to certain kinds of policemen who are seen as having hijacked Egypt’s police force under the old regime to promote the agenda of the Gamal Mubarak succession gang and the State Security Investigation Services.
Surprisingly, Egypt’s current caretaker government could not find a suitable candidate for the position of interior minister other than ex-minister Mansour al-Issawi, who left the post 15 years ago and is over 70 years old. Issawi is doing his best to fix the mess created by his predecessors. But residents of the various governorates should be consulted before selecting the new governors.
The selection of the governor of Alexandria is particularly problematic. The new governor was a prominent figure in the old regime, a member of the now dissolved NDP, and was accused of helping to rig both the Teachers’ Club elections and the 2005 parliamentary elections. In appointing this man, the government’s aims are particularly unclear, especially given the fact that people have proposed the respected Judge Ahmad Mekki as an alternative. There many other qualified candidates who could also have been considered.
The government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces should operate outside of the rules that have governed Egypt for last 30 years. Some viewed the decision to select Essam Sharaf as prime minister as adventurous; the same adventurous spirit should be used in selecting governors. We have a golden opportunity to select governors to work within a transitional period that will not exceed six months. If they succeed, we will have offered Egypt a new cadre of popular and efficient personnel, which rarely happens. If they fail, they will be replaced within a short period of time.
In the long run, Egyptians must be allowed to elect rather than appoint governors. It’s true that there are administrative representatives appointed by the state in every governorate as in all democratic countries. But these representatives should not institute policy; that should be the sole prerogative of the elected governor.
Popular protests against the appointment of new governors must be taken seriously. Egypt should not be governed according to the old ways. What must change are not simply individuals in positions of power, but the mechanisms for selecting them.