On 24 February the Egyptian government of interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi handed in its resignation to President Mansour. President Mansour asked El-Beblawi to run the government’s affairs until an new prime minister is selected. El-Beblawi gave no clear reason for his decision, but it is widely believed the cabinet made way for Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president, who was till now minister of defense.
El-Beblawi has been prime minister since the fall of former President Muhammed Morsi in July 2013. He said his decision was made: “in light of the current situation the country is going through”. Sources say Housing Minister Ibrahim Mahled, a former supporter and official of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, would be named new prime minister.
The political situation in Egypt
Since the military overthrew President Morsi, the country has been in political turmoil. In a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement to which Morsi belonged, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have been detained. Meanwhile, militants based in the Sinai dessert have stepped up their attacks, killing hundreds. Also Egypt is experiencing a series of strikes and a shortage of cooking gas.
Interim Prime Minster El-Beblawi said in his announcement: "The cabinet has over the past six or seven months shouldered a very difficult responsibility [...] in most cases the results were good". He added: ‘’ The country is facing huge dangers. It is time we stood together to protect it and help it get out of this narrow tunnel”. He thus stated that the government, in the difficult situation, did the best it could. Government spokesman Hani Saleh said he was: “feeling that new blood is needed”.
With the resignation of the government, the way is paved for Army Chief Al-Sisi to announce his candidacy for the Egyptian presidential elections. For Sisi to run for president, he first needed to resign as minister of defense and first deputy prime minister. An Egyptian official said to reporters of Reuters: "This (government resignation) was done as a step that was needed ahead of Sisi's announcement that he will run for president".
If and when Al-Sisi decides to run for president, there is a good chance that he becomes the next president of Egypt. His would-be-rivals would not be able to match his popularity. The Muslim Brotherhood, however, says that Sisi wants to restore a military-dominated government. Meanwhile, human rights groups claim abuses are spreading by the day.
Egypt is, due to its control over the Suez Canal and the peace treaty with Israel, the most important geo-strategic country in the region. Any new government will be pressured to restore peace and stability in the country, not only by its citizens but also by the international community.
Author: Koen Migchelbrink