x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

20 ministers out as Egyptian PM reshuffles cabinet

Essam Sharaf did not disclose all his cabinet changes, but Mohammed Kamel Amr replaces Mohammed Al Orabi as foreign minister and Ali Al Selmy becomes minister of political development, with the full cabinet list expected today.

CAIRO // Egypt's prime minister announced a sweeping cabinet reshuffle yesterday in the face of angry demonstrations at the slow pace of reform by the country's interim military rulers.

Essam Sharaf did not disclose all his cabinet changes, but Mohammed Kamel Amr replaces Mohammed Al Orabi as foreign minister and Ali Al Selmy becomes minister of political development and democratic affairs. Hazem El Beblawi, an economist who works as an adviser for the Arab Monetary Fund in the UAE, is expected to take over as finance minister.

Twenty ministers out of 27 are being replaced, and the full cabinet list is expected today.

Mr Sharaf has come under fire from protesters who once embraced him for the slow pace of reforms since the revolt overthrew Mr Mubarak in February, and for his limited powers under military rule.

Demonstrators have maintained a presence in Tahrir Square since July 8, demanding trials for police officers and officials involved in killing more than 800 people during the uprisings that took place between January 25 and February 14. Many said the new appointments were not enough.

"We don't want a puppet cabinet, we don't want a puppet parliament!" some shouted as they marched around the square.

"The people who are in the SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] were partners of Mubarak. Now they say they are partners of the revolution, but so far their partnership has only been superficial," said Gamaa, an English teacher who had been in the square since Friday.

"The protesters at the sit-in since July 8 did not ask for new ministers," said Ahmed Ezzat, one of the demonstrators. "They ask for fulfillment of the revolution's political and social demands and the trial of symbols of the old regime and those who killed protesters."

"The new cabinet will have no impact on the sit-in," said Basma Mukhtar, a member of the Independent Coalition for Youth of the Revolution. "We do not want a change of personalities or a reshuffle. We will stay here until all of our demands are met."

It was also announced yesterday that Mr Mubarak's trial, set to begin on August 3, would be held in Sharm El Sheikh. Saeed Shetta, who had been in the square for a week, said: "If they were serious, they would have made sure Mubarak was transferred to Cairo be tried."

Others were more willing to give the new appointments a chance. "We have to wait to see where this new cabinet will go," said Abdul Jalil al Sharnubi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who joined the Coalition of Artists for the Revolution and has been in the square since Thursday.

"Will it really work towards change on the ground and meeting our demands? If so, we could temporarily suspend the sit-in. We go to the square to express our demands and SCAF gives us the bare minimum in return. We must also bear in mind that there are protests all over the country."

Mr El Beblawi is a university professor and Mr Al Selmy is a senior member of the Wafd Party. Moataz Khurshid was named as Mr Sharaf's choice for minister of higher education, Hazem Abdel Azim Youssef for minister of communications, Amr Mohamed Helmi was named as minister of health and Ali Zine El Abidine was named minister of transport.

Members of the April 6 Movement, one of those driving the sit-in, admitted they knew little about the new appointees. One cabinet change that seemed to please protesters was the resignation of Zawi Hawass, the minister of antiquities, who had served under Mr Mubarak and has been accused of corruption.

"Don't forget your hat!" some protesters Tweeted. Mr Hawass had taken to wearing an Indiana Jones-style fedora.



* Additional reporting by Yasmin El Rifae, Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg News