Egypt’s Premier Hazem Al Beblawi addressing the media in Cairo yesterday
CAIRO: Egypt’s military-installed government resigned en masse yesterday in a surprise move ahead of a presidential poll likely to bring defence minister and army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to power.
A limited reshuffle to allow Sisi to step down as defence minister and enter elections had been expected, but the en masse resignations led by the increasingly unpopular prime minister Hazem Al Beblawi surprised even some in the cabinet.
Appointed in July after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, Beblawi’s government came under pressure to step aside amid a worsening economy and a spate of militant attacks and labour strikes.
The resignations might lead to a new cabinet without the baggage of Beblawi’s government ahead of Sisi’s expected run in the presidential election this spring.
Sisi, who emerged as the country’s most popular political figure after ending Mursi’s divisive one-year rule, has not yet announced his candidacy, but aides say he has already decided to run and will make the announcement soon.
The field marshal, who is the defence minister and first deputy prime minister in the outgoing cabinet, has to resign from the government and the army before he can officially announce his candidacy.
The cabinet said in a statement it resigned “in light of the current situation that the country is going through.”
The resignations could have been triggered by the pressure on Beblawi himself to step down.
“If the prime minister resigns, then the whole cabinet resigns,” Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a political science professor at Cairo University, said.
The resignations could also work in Sisi’s favour, he added.
“If Field Marshal Sisi decides to run, he would like to run with a government that has a good reputation and can help him by resolving some of the urgent problems faced by the people.”
Beblawi said his government would remain in a caretaker role until the interim president signs off on the resignations, the official MENA news agency reported.
Government spokesman Hany Saleh said that yesterday’s decision was taken because there was a “feeling that new blood is needed.”