The Egyptian Cabinet handed in its resignation to interim President Adly Mansour in an abrupt decision on Monday afternoon.
Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi made the announcement in a speech delivered to the nation, in which he described the members of the cabinet as “highly competent” and “loyal”.
“They have exerted an effort to see Egypt out of the narrow tunnel,” he said, adding that challenges remain, including “security issues, economic pressures, and political perplexity”.
“Thanks to God, security has been restored and, to a great extent, there is rule of law,” El-Beblawi said. In a statement issued after the speech, the cabinet said that even when the government had to impose a state of emergency, it was committed to the highest levels of self-restraint and did not resort to exceptional measures. “All arrests were legal,” the cabinet said.
The cabinet attributed the resignation to “current circumstances the country is experiencing” and a “response to the requirements of the current stage”.
El-Beblawi, 78, was appointed as prime minister by interim President Adly Mansour on 9 July, just days after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.
As it stands, the nation is in waiting, expecting the presidency to announce a name for El-Beblawi’s replacement, who will likely remain in charge until the upcoming presidential elections.
H. A. Hellyer, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, described the cabinet resignation as a significant decision, since it is not a reshuffle, but a “complete resignation”.
This decision comes at a time when a cabinet reshuffle was expected; El-Beblawi said on 5 February that a reshuffle is set to take place, but will be limited.
El-Beblawi added that the post of defence minister may be vacant, should the current minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi decide to run for president.
Hellyer said the decision “came out of the blue” and that very few people were aware of it beforehand.
He added that the decision means “El-Beblawi is definitely out”. He also believes that the government did not need to resign in order for Al-Sisi to run for president. Should he decide to launch a presidential bid, Al-Sisi would be required by the 2014 Constitution to resign from his military post and run as a civilian in the bid for presidency.
On what the decision means for the interior minister’s post, Hellyer said there is no indication that current minister Mohamed Ibrahim will be removed, but that it was too soon to tell.
Hellyer ruled out the possibility that Interim President Adly Mansour will not accept the cabinet’s resignation. “There is no chance of that,” he said, adding that he cannot imagine that the announcement was made public before Mansour was informed.
Hellyer believes that it is unlikely that the decision will have an impact on the timing of the upcoming presidential elections, which he expects will be held in mid-April.
Acting Muslim Brotherhood spokeswoman Wafaa Al-Banna said the resignation is a sign that “Al-Sisi and his party are very fragile.” Al-Banna believes that “what is left of [the cabinet members’] self respect is what led them to resign”.
What is needed at this stage is to focus on who will rule next and how, she said, adding that “liberal and secular opposition must unite with the Islamists for the sake of Egypt”.
General coordinator for the 6 April Youth Movements Amr Ali welcomed the decision, but also described it as “late”. In a Monday statement Ali said the “the government failed to meet the requirements of all issues facing the country.” He said the only issue addressed by the government was that of security, an area in which he believes it to have failed. Looking ahead, Ali called for a “technocratic government” away from affiliations with political parties.
President of Islamist Al-Nour Party Younes Makhioun “expected this”, he said in a Monday statement. He said the cabinet was “weak and isolated from the people and from reality,” adding that it failed in dealing with categorical demands and strikes. Makhioun, however, believes that there are competent ministers in El-Beblawi’s cabinet who should remain in place.