Egypt’s government resigned, paving the way for army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president of a country gripped by political strife.
After the July overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and subsequent crackdown on Islamists and liberals with hundreds killed and thousands jailed, critics say Cairo’s military-backed authorities are turning the clock back 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 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 effectively 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,” an Egyptian official said. He said the cabinet had resigned en masse as Sisi did not want to appear to be acting alone.
Government spokesman 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 Morsi 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.
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