Cabinet reshuffle not likely to satisfy protesters

Zeinab El Gundy, Sunday 17 Jul 2011

For the past few days Egypt has been witnessing a heated debate about the new government and, though some features of the new cabinet have started to become clear, the debate continues

Tahrir square
(Photo by Mai Shaheen)

The Egyptian National Council suggested the formation of a revolution cabinet last Friday, headed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf with two deputies for the prime minister, one for legal and political affairs and another for economic affairs. The council recommended Mohamed Nour Farahat for political affairs and Hazem Beblawi for economic affairs.

Beblawi has since been appointed as finance minister and deputy prime minister for economic issues and Ali El-Salmi has been appointed as deputy prime minister for political affairs and democratic transition.

Even though the apointment of Beblawi was criticised by some political groups for his close ties with the old regime, in addition to him being in his seventies, some see it as a sign that the demands of the revolutionaries are being met.

The council suggested that the 8 ministers from current cabinet, namely the ministers of irrigation, tourism, interior, health, culture, manpower, electricity and social solidarity, should be kept while the reshuffle would include 22 ministers. Samir El-Sayid, the minister of trade and industry, Samir Radwan, the minister of finance, and Mohamed El-Orabi, the minister foreign affairs, have resigned in the past 24 hours. Rumours have also leaked that the ministers of interior and justice, and another 8 ministers, will not be included in the reshuffle. 

Sharaf announced last Monday that there would be a cabinet reshuffle that would meet the expectations of the public in a week. The cabinet reshuffle is expected to be announced in the coming 48 hours. 

The cabinet reshuffle comes following the demands of Tahrir Square protesters for a new revolutionary cabinet and Sharaf to step in. Last night a group of indepdent protesters and coalitions issued a new list of demands to end the sit-in in Tahrir Square. Concerns remain however that the new cabinet resuffle will not end the sit-in in Tahrir Square and other squares around the country.

"No one political group can call the sit-in off," said the spokesmen for both the April 6 Youth movement and the Revolution's Youth Coalition in a press conference held last Thursday. And even though the two well-known groups have cooperated in nominating names for the new government, they do not know if the "square" will be satisified enough to call the sit-in off.

On Saturday, 73 political coalitions, movements and groups, along with independent protesters at Tahrir Square, issued a new list of demands in order to end the current Tahrir Square sit-in. They believe that fulfilling the revolution's demands is the only way that the sit-in can be come to an end.

The 10 demands the protesters announced started with the transfer of the former president Hosni Mubarak to Tora prison, a tribunal for the murders of the protesters with Mubarak the first to be tried and the dismissal of the minister of justice Abdel Aziz El Guindy, the general prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud and the central auditing organisation’s chairman Gawdat El-Malt. The demands also include separating the civilian police force from the ministry of interior after its purging, as well as limiting the police ranks to colonel, ending military trials for civilians, setting political prisoners from before or after the revolution free and to enforce the independence of Al Azhar through free elections for its clerics committee. 

The protesters also demanded setting a minimum and maximum limit for wages, banning NDP members from political activities for at least 5 years, cancelling the anti-protest law and setting up a committee for citizen complaints. 

The cabinet reshuffle, when completed, is therefore unlikely to end the sit-in, or at least this is what many activists believe.

"Only when the families of the martyrs are satisfied will we be satisfied and the sit-in will end," says Fatma Abed, a political activist who has been participating in the sit-in for 10 days. "These [the families] will not be satisfied except when they feel that the lives of their sons and daughters were not lost in vain."

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