Egypt’s prime minister abruptly announced the resignation of the military-backed government, surprising many members of his cabinet. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi was appointed to his post last July, soon after the military ousted the country’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. He did not give any reasons for the decision or explain its timing. A minister that was present at the announcement said, “I walked in this morning. The resignation statement was read. I left.” Mr. Beblawi “didn’t talk about the reasons,” he said.
Growing criticism of the performance of the military-backed government may have been one reason for the resignations. The military backed government has presided over the most turbulent period in recent memory and has struggled to manage the country over the last seven months of political unrest. Any sense of achievement has been largely overshadowed by the country’s economic struggles. The government was a caretaker administration that was drafted to manage the country until elections could be held.
After Mr. Morsi was ousted as president, thousands of his supporters held sit-ins in Cairo, calling for his return to the presidency. The government, swayed by hard-liners like Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, responded with brutal force, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators and the imprisonment of thousands of other opponents. Militants have intensified a deadly campaign against the government, attacking security officers and installations across the country. The government’s crackdown has now broadened to include non-Islamist activists, as well as academics and journalists.
Some are speculating that the resignations were somehow intended to clear the way for Field Marshal Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi to announce his candidacy in the coming presidential election. El-Sisi is currently the defense minister and the dominant figure in the government. It was not immediately clear who would replace the departed ministers. State news media reported that they would continue to oversee their ministries until a new government was seated.