Egyptian cabinet reshuffle fails to satisfy protesters
Egyptian protesters, who reoccupied Tahrir Square 10 days ago, say they want a change in policies – not just personalities – to show that the military rulers are serious about democratic reform.
The Egyptian government's latest attempt to defuse protests – a cabinet reshuffle – has failed to satisfy the thousands who remain camped out in Tahrir Square, demanding more substantive change.Skip to next paragraph
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Interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has reportedly replaced at least a dozen government ministers – about half the cabinet, marking a concession to protesters who, impatient with the pace of reform, reoccupied Tahrir 10 days ago. But protesters say they want new policies – not just new personalities – to show that the military council ruling the country is serious about getting rid of the old power structure and enacting democratic reform. Many vowed to stay put in their tents in the middle of the square.
“[The cabinet reshuffle] means nothing,” says Ahmed Salah, a member of one of the groups coordinating protests. “We don’t need to change names, we need to change the attitude of the military council. Because everything is in their hands.”
Swearing-in ceremony delayed
The interim government is largely powerless under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over when former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February. Mr. Salah sees the council’s hand in the fact that the Minister of Interior, highly criticized by protesters, survived the purge.
The new ministers include two well-known public figures who were opposed to the Mubarak regime and a number of lesser-known technocratic figures. Among those replaced were the foreign and finance ministers. But because the new ministers are not known to be associated with particular policies, the reshuffle is seen as unlikely to result in a dramatic shift in governance, says Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo.
The new cabinet members were due to be sworn in today but the ceremony was delayed to a later date, raising questions about whether there may be further changes in the cabinet line-up.
Carnival atmosphere in Tahrir
On Sunday night, the news had created barely a ripple in Tahrir. Music and impassioned speeches blasted from speakers at a half-dozen stages around the square, as a vendor made his way through the crowd with a tray of candied apples. The square had an almost carnival-like atmosphere, as families with young children ascended the stairs from the metro into air filled with the smell of popcorn and roasting nuts.