Egypt president names new PM
President Mohamed Morsi has asked Hisham Kandil, a relatively young water minister little known outside Egypt, to form a new government, disappointing investors who had hoped for a high-profile economy specialist.
Kandil was a senior bureaucrat in the ministry until he was appointed minister in July last year after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.
He obtained a doctorate in irrigation from the University of North Carolina in the United States in 1993, according to the water ministry's Facebook page.
A spokesman for Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood politician sworn in as Egypt's first freely elected president on June 30, described Kandil as an "independent patriot" who had not belonged to a party either before or after the popular uprising against Mubarak, according to the state news agency.
Yet Kandil's beard has generated speculation that he has Islamist sympathies. He has denied being affiliated to any Islamist group, but told Al Jazeera in an interview last year he had grown his beard out of a sense of religious duty.
Kandil did not feature among the long list of potential candidates for premier circulated by Egyptian media in the three weeks since Morsi took office.
That speculation had focused on a group of economists including past and present central bank officials, reports Reuters.
"This is quite a surprise as most of the names put around had been from the financial sector. The market is definitely reacting negatively," said Mohamed Radwan at Pharos Securities.
Morsi was due to meet Kandil later yesterday. Kandil recently accompanied Morsi to an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
Since Morsi was elected in June, Egypt has been embroiled in a complex power struggle between Morsi, a former senior Muslim Brotherhood official, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled the country since Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.
Just days before Morsi was elected, the SCAF disbanded parliament in response to a constitutional court ruling that it had been invalidly elected, reports AFP.
The origins of the battle for parliament lay in the constitutional declaration issued by the SCAF before the president was sworn in.
The declaration, which acts as a temporary constitution, granted the military sweeping powers, including legislative control, and rendered the presidential post little more than symbolic.