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The Egyptian Cabinet's last supper

Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's 'uncertain' cabinet reshuffle, intended to absorb anger in Tahrir Square, appears to have made the country's political landscape more complex

Salma El-Wardani , Wednesday 20 Jul 2011
Essam Sharaf
Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf (Photo: AP)

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced on 11 July that he would reshuffle his interim Cabinet as a way to meet the demands of the public, especially those protesting in Tahrir Square for a Cabinet that reflects the will of the revolution.

One week later, a series of ministerial changes were announced one after another. By the end of the day, 14 posts had new occupants.

Not only has the move failed to respond to the aspirations of the revolutionaries protesting in Tahrir Square since July 8, dubbed as the Egyptian revolution’s second wave, but for some it has served to complicate the situation against the interim government and defacto military ruler.

A few hours after the announcements, rumours began to circulate that some of the new ministers might not last much longer. Television reports on Monday night revealed that the swearing-in of the new Cabinet would take place on Tuesday following “discussions,” which were yet to be finalised.

By late Monday, further news reports emerged that Sharaf was in hospital on account of a sudden rise in blood pressure. The swearing-in ceremony was delayed, giving him more time to change some of his nominations.

Wednesday afternoon Sharaf appeared on state television attending with members from the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces the military academy’s graduation ceremony. The swearing-in ceremony for his Cabinet is now scheduled for Thursday morning. In the intervening period three initial nominees – the ministers of industry, antiquities and foreign affairs – have slipped out for varying reasons.

The government already announced earlier on Monday Sharaf’s decision to cancel the nomination of the Abdel Fatah El-Banna as antiquities minister after a significant number of archaeologists protested against the decision outside the Cabinet building on Monday morning.

On Tuesday another newly-appointed minister, Ahmed Fikry, announced that he will not be assuming the post of minister of trade and industry a day after being appointed because of the hostile reaction to the possible presence of a businessman in the Cabinet.

Formal Sources told Ahram Online earlier on Tuesday that the ruling military council is inclined towards reinstating Mohamed El-Orabi to the post of foreign minister – from which he resigned just last Sunday.

Should this be the case, it comes after Sharaf had appointed Mohamed Kamel Amr, a career diplomat, to the top diplomatic job on Sunday fresh in the wake of El-Orabi’s resignation to Sharaf after just three weeks in the post.

After all the upheaval, Sharaf has ordered all current Cabinet ministers to continue performing their duties and administer their respective ministries until the 15 new ministers swear a government oath. An official military source subsequently stated today that the new Cabinet, led by Sharaf, will be sworn in tomorrow by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council.

The day after 8 July’s ‘Friday of Persistence’, 73 political coalitions, movements and groups, along with independent protesters in Tahrir Square, issued a new list of demands to be met before they would the current Tahrir Square sit-in.

These included the transfer of the former president Hosni Mubarak to Tora prison, the setting up of a tribunal to investigate the killing of protesters with Mubarak the first to be tried, separating the civilian police force from the Ministry of Interior after its purging and limiting the police ranks to colonel. Further demands pertaining to human rights are the ending of military trials for civilians and the release of political prisoners. Institutionally, Al-Azhar’s independence from the state should be ensured through free elections for its clerical committee while the demands call for the dismissal of the ministers of justice and interior, the prosecutor-general and the central auditing organisation’s chairman, Gawdat El-Malt.

None of these stated demands have as yet been met, with the Cabinet reshuffle not touching upon the ministers of interior and justice, leaving protesters across Egypt unsatisfied with the failure to instigate any real reform.

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