The Cabinet resignation; the day after

Local media with sources close to the authorities claim that Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi’s cabinet’s sudden resignation was called for by the president. 

Beblawi announced his cabinet’s resignation in a televised conference on Monday, contrary to expectations for a limited cabinet reshuffle. 

On Tuesday, privately owned Al-Shorouk cited a source close to Beblawi as saying that his decision was based on “something closer to a firing order”. The source said that Beblawi’s decision followed a meeting with interim President Adly Mansour on Sunday, and that his resignation was accepted before it was submitted officially. In the meeting, increasing labor unrest and protests were discussed, which may explain the reason behind the call for the cabinet to resign. 

Before the resignation, a limited cabinet reshuffle was expected primarily to relieve Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of his position ahead of his expected candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections. 

Author Mohamed Salmawy, who was the spokesperson of the committee that drafted the recently passed constitution, and a source close to the military, said in his op-ed for the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm that Beblawi himself was not aware about the move to resign before Monday, as he was already talking earlier in the week about his travel plans to Africa on Tuesday. 

Al-Shorouk also stated that Beblawi’s decision wasn’t communicated to ministers ahead of time. As the cabinet convened for a weekly meeting, held exceptionally on Monday (instead of Wednesday), Beblawi opened with, “there are urgent circumstances that Egypt is witnessing and I prefer to take a collective resignation decision,” according to a source that reportedly attended the meeting. 

Only a few ministers, according to Shorouk’s sources, knew about the resignation ahead of time, including Sisi, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and Housing Minister Ibrahim Mehleb. 

The ministerial meeting didn’t last for more than 30 minutes, reported Al-Masry Al-Youm, after which all ministers left without commenting on the decision. However, Sisi was seen “smiling” at the end of the meeting. 

According to Al-Shorouk, “more ministers are staying than going” in the new cabinet, which is expected to be led by Mehleb. Al-Masry Al-Youm, meanwhile, says that of the 36 ministers in the current cabinet, 15 are expected to go, including the ministers of finance, irrigation, solidarity, justice, health, provisions, culture and higher education. Meanwhile, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, who has been a hard-liner inside the cabinet in regards to quelling protests, is expected to stay. 

In his tacitly sympathetic tone to Beblawi, Salmawy wrote, “Hazem al-Beblawi’s announcement said the current cabinet suffers from certain instabilities, but I don’t believe that this instability is behind the call for the cabinet to resign, since other ministers who are responsible for the public anger against the cabinet are staying.” 

Meanwhile, Al-Shorouk stated that while Sisi is keeping his ministerial position, he is moving forward with forming his presidential team ahead of announcing his candidacy for the contest. 

A military source, who also remained anonymous, told Al-Shorouk that Amr Moussa, who headed the 50-person committee that drafted the recently passed constitution, and who was at the forefront of civilian forces coalescing with the military to topple the Muslim Brotherhood last summer, is believed to have a prominent role in Sisi’s campaign. The privately owned Al-Watan cited other names in Sisi’s campaign, such as political scientist Amr al-Shobaki and the prime minister’s Political Advisor Mostafa Hegazy. The paper also said that Sisi is meeting on Tuesday with members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to discuss his candidacy and plans to pull out from the new cabinet formation. 

Tuesday’s privately-owned papers, known to have developed a proximity in views with the military leadership in the wake of the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, cast their blessing on the cabinet resignation. One of Al-Masry Al-Youm’s headlines read, “Political and economic experts says: Goodbye to the cabinet of lost opportunities.” The story cites Ali al-Selmy, a former vice prime minister and a pro-military figure, as saying that Biblawy’s cabinet allowed for foreign intervention and didn’t fight the Muslim Brotherhood enough. 

Sources cited in the story blamed the cabinet for its slow decision with regards to the dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins demanding the reinstatement of former President Mohamed Morsi. Before the protests were eventually forcibly dispersed after 45 days of existence, resulting in the death of at least 1000 people, divisions were reported inside the cabinet regarding the decision to violently intervene. Back then, Vice Prime Minister Mohamed ElBaradei was calling for negotiations and not a forcible eviction, a contention that Beblawi is blamed for until today. 

Similarly, Al-Watan cited sources as saying that Beblawi didn’t respond to the needs of the people. In a profile written about Beblawi in the privately owned newspaper, the focus seemed to be on Beblawi’s refusal to consider the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist group” back in November, “which many political forces considered siding with the Brothers.”

AD