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After El-Beblawi's resignation, what's next?

Ahram Online speaks to governmental and political sources to find out who will form the next Egyptian cabinet

Dina Ezzat , Monday 24 Feb 2014
Adly, El-Sisi and Beblawi
Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour (2nd from Left) with PM Hazem El-Beblawi (L) and Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi during a military graduation ceremony (Photo courtesy of Egypt's army spokesman's official Facebook page)
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The resignation of interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi's government on Monday has opened the door for more questions rather than answers.

All cabinet members were included in the resignation, including Egypt's defence minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. So is this a move, then, to allow the army chief to enter civilian life in order to run as a candidate in upcoming presidential elections?

Or is El-Bablawi's resignation a response to growing public dismay over the interim government's recent performance?

Beyond these questions, however, are more pressing issues.

Timing

What's the significance in the timing of El-Beblawi's announcement?

If El-Sisi wants to run for president, then he must resign from his post as defence minister – according to Egyptian law, members of the armed forces and police can't run for public office.

In this light, Monday's resignation could be seen as a way for him to leave his military post as part of a group exodus.

But what comes after that? Most likely interim President Adly Mansour will soon issue an amended version of a law which will govern the upcoming presidential polls, thereby opening up the electoral process.

El-Sisi is expected to announce his candidacy at this point. So the scenario could go like this: El-Beblawi's resignation, then Mansour passing the elections law, followed by El-Sisi's candidacy.

Another timing-related issue has to do with recent concerns that El-Sisi's huge popularity, which he has gained since announcing the end of ousted president Mohamed Morsi's troubled one-year rule, has recently declined. 

Shortly after Morsi's overthrow, El-Sisi fell out of favour with many og Egypt's revolutionary youth, who widely abstained from voting in January's constitutional referendum.

Sources that Ahram Online spoke with said that El-Beblawi's resignation concerns these disaffected "youth figures" who have recently met with Mansour's advisors and expressed concern over the government's transitional road map, particularly the round-up and detention of secular demonstrators.

New premier

Who's going to be prime minister after El-Beblawi? The answers are diverse. 

Most of the sources Ahram Online spoke with suggest current housing minister Ibrahim Mehlab as a prominent candidate. Mehlab has previously announced his support for El-Sisi's presidential hopes, going so far as to start a pro-Sisi movement called Kamil Gamilak to push for the army chief's candidacy.

Several key figures from the banking and finance sector have also been cited, like banker Adel El-Labban, as well as members of the bureaucratic old guard such as longtime economist Kamal El-Ganzouri, who in addition to serving as interim prime minister once before in 2011 has also been on an informal advisory board to both Mansour and El-Sisi.

The least-talked about figure for prime minister is Amr Moussa, formerly Egypt's foreign minister and secretary-general of the Arab League. Though Moussa ran as a candidate in the 2012 elections and finished poorly, his popularity increased considerably after he chaired the 50-member committee tasked with amending Egypt's constitution last year.

An independent political source told Ahram Online that El-Sisi is "keen" to have Moussa sworn in as prime minster now, before he himself is potentially inaugurated as president.

Doing so would give El-Sisi a few advantages, the source says. For one, Moussa is popular now and his nomination would be well-received. Also, El-Sisi would already have a prime minister in place by the time he became president. If he didn't, he'd have to wait until a new parliament was formed after elections and then submit his nomination for approval.

Other cabinet changes

Beyond the prime minister's slot, though, who will fill all the other empty posts?

Ziyad Baheddine is leaving and thus his two positions, deputy prime minister and minister for international cooperation, will need to be filled. Baheddine was widely attacked last year when he pushed for negotiations with the ousted Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies.

If Mehlab is picked as prime minister, his former post of housing minister will be vacant.

Then there's Hossam Eissa, who shared the roles of deputy prime minister with Baheddine and was also the higher education minister.

His performance as education minister wasn't well received by students and professors alike, with student groups calling for his dismissal in response to a security crackdown on university campuses that left several pro-Morsi students dead in clashes with police.

Other outgoing ministers include health minister Maha El-Rabat, who also faced criticism for an ongoing doctors' strike as well as an outbreak of swine flu across the country, and public transport minister Ibrahim Dmeeri, who has been in the spotlight most recently for a public transport workers' strike which entered its third day on Monday to demand the implementation of a minimum wage.

The fate of interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim is also being speculated.  

Sources have suggested that Ibrahim, who was assigned to his post under Morsi, had offered his resignation to El-Beblawi prior to Monday's announcement in protest against alleged meddling with the interior ministry's chain of command, namely orders being issued to his senior generals from outside of the ministry.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is the suggestion that Ibrahim had wanted to resign because he knew that "it would be him and not anyone else" who would one day be held accountable for the slew of recent human rights violations, said a source.

But Ibrahim's resignation might not be final, according to one governmental source, who said that it seemed too difficult to change the interior minister at such a crucial moment in Egypt, just before presidential and parliamentary elections and amidst a security crisis which has seen a sharp rise in bombings by militant groups on army and police personnel and institutions across the country.

Still, the source admitted that Ibrahim's removal would "clearly" help El-Sisi's image, considering the recent dismay expressed from many quarters, including El-Sisi's advisors, about the interior ministry's apparent return to its old pre-2011 tactics – a crackdown on all forms of dissent as well as alleged accounts of torture and brutality in Egypt's prisons.

The decision to remove El-Beblawi would also be keeping in line with the strategy of isolating El-Sisi from the interim government's purported failures, the source said.

Regardless, no clear date has been offered as to when the next cabinet will be formed.

As the countdown for El-Sisi's nomination as a presidential candidate continues, the only thing that seems clear is that the next cabinet will have to improve upon the mistakes of the old one.

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