/ 25 February 2014

Egypt’s prime minister, Cabinet resign

Hazem al-Beblawy
Hazem al-Beblawy

Egypt is braced for its sixth government since the start of the 2011 uprising, after the prime minister announced the early resignation of the entire interim Cabinet on Monday afternoon.

Hazem al-Beblawy, appointed in the days following the removal of Mohamed Morsi last July, was meant to head Egypt's government until the election of a new president, but resigned on Monday after weeks of mounting criticism.

In a televised speech, Beblawy appeared to respond to the attacks by asking Egyptians to take more personal responsibility for solving the country's engrained economic and social challenges.

"It is time we all sacrificed for the good of the country. Rather than asking what has Egypt given us, we should instead be asking what we have done for Egypt," Beblawy was quoted as saying in state-run media.

He said his government had "made every effort to get Egypt out of the narrow tunnel in terms of security, economic pressures and political confusion".

Criticism of his government had peaked in recent weeks amid large strikes in industrial cities, and widespread electricity blackouts.

Mass resignation
Senior officials gave conflicting advice on whether the mass resignation signalled that Egypt's defence minister, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, had imminent plans to make a formal announcement about a widely expected presidential run. One told Reuters that the move was necessary to give Sisi political cover to step down from military duties. Another told the Guardian: "You don't need to change a government to remove one person."

The move took many inside government by surprise, with one minister and some ministry spokespeople telling the Guardian they had no foreknowledge of their departure from government.

Beblawy's successor was not immediately announced, nor was it clear whether any of his ministers would be reappointed. But there has been speculation for weeks that Beblawy will be succeeded at some stage by the outgoing housing minister, Ibrahim Mahlab. The former head of Egypt's largest building firm, Arab Contractors, Mahlab is seen by Egypt's political class as a more active and decisive leader than the 77-year-old Beblawy.

"He gets things done," said Samir Radwan, Egypt's former finance minister. "He is a doer, a man of action. I've never seen him in an office. I've only ever seen him on a building site." – © Guardian News and Media 2014