Egypt’s government resigns

2014-02-24 16:39

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Cairo – Egypt’s government has resigned, paving the way for army chief, Field-Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to declare his candidacy for president.

After the July overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, and subsequent crackdown on Islamists and liberals with hundreds killed and thousands jailed, critics say Cairo’s military-backed authorities are returning to the era of autocrat Hosni Mubarak when the political elite ruled with an iron fist in alliance with top businessmen.

“[The outgoing government] made every effort to get Egypt out of the narrow tunnel in terms of security, economic pressures and political confusion,” Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a live nationwide speech.

Beblawi, who was tasked by interim President Adly Mansour with running the government’s affairs until the election, did not give a clear reason for the decision.

But it, in effect, opened the way for Sisi to run for president since he would first have to leave his post as defence minister in any case.

“This [government resignation] was done as a step that was needed ahead of Sisi’s announcement that he will run for president,” said an Egyptian official.

He said the cabinet had resigned en masse as Sisi did not want to appear to be acting alone.

Government spokesperson Hany Salah said only: “This government feels that it did what it had to do in this critical period and maybe it’s time for a change.”

Sisi has unveiled a political roadmap meant to lead to elections after toppling Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass unrest against his increasingly arbitrary rule.

But promises of democracy have not borne fruit in the biggest Arab nation where hundreds of thousands of people gathered in 2011 in an army-backed uprising that overthrew Mubarak and raised hopes of a new political landscape.

The presidential vote is expected within months in Egypt, which has great geo-strategic importance due to its peace treaty with Israel and control over the Suez Canal, a vital global shipping lane and the shortest between Asia and Europe.

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