Egypt Prime Minister Resigns, Meeting Key Protester Demand

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik Resigns
Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik resigned, caving in to protesters who are insisting that Cabinet members named by former President Hosni Mubarak leave office.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said it accepted the resignation and asked former minister of transportation Essam Sharaf to form a new Cabinet, the council said on its Facebook page.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei called the move “a step on the right path” in a message on his Twitter account. Ayman Nour, a former presidential candidate, welcomed the departure and said prominent ministers under Mubarak shouldn’t be part of a new Cabinet. “The pressure must continue,” he said in a phone interview.

The move comes a day before protests planned by opposition groups calling for an end to Shafik’s government. Mubarak was forced from office last month after 18 days of mass demonstrations, ending three decades of rule. He ceded authority to the army council, which suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament, saying it would rule for six months or until elections are held.

The protests were inspired by a mass uprising in Tunisia that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his replacement by a caretaker government headed by members of the former regime. Protesters demanding that ties are severed with the Ben Ali era forced Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi to resign on Feb. 27.

Fueled Protests

The toppling of Ben Ali and Mubarak has fueled protests throughout the Arab world including in Libya, which is on the brink of civil war. Oil prices have risen to the highest in 2 1/2 years on concern that the turmoil will disrupt the flow of crude.

Shafik’s resignation is “the first tangible response to a real demand” made on the interim military rulers following the departure of Mubarak, said Emad Gad, an analyst with the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. The army was “kind of forced” to make the change “because doing away with the government has become a main demand,” he said.

Sharaf, 58, has held a number of teaching positions including at Cairo University’s school of engineering.

Sharaf “has clean hands -- he was one of the most efficient ministers in Mubarak’s era as the transport minister and so he is an acceptable face,” said Khalil al-Anani, a political analyst affiliated with the Al-Ahram Foundation in Cairo.

Tahrir Square

The Alliance of the Youths’ Revolution, a coalition of protest groups, called off marches planned for tomorrow after the announcement, Nasser Abdel Hamid, a member of the alliance said on Al Arabiya television. People will gather in Tahrir Square, a focal point for earlier demonstrations, Friday to welcome the move and press forward other demands, he said.

“There will be a protest to thank the armed forces, celebrate this positive step and to stress the remaining demands,” he said. These include releasing political prisoners and putting on trial those responsible for attacks on protesters during the unrest, he said. Demonstrators are also calling for increased democracy and a crackdown against corruption. No date for elections has been set.

Some 365 people were killed and 5,500 injured during the uprising, state TV reported on Feb. 17, citing the Health Ministry.

Muslim Brotherhood

Authorities freed Khayrat al-Shater and Hassan Malik, two leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, senior group member Ali Abdel Fattah said today. Al-Shater and Malik were sentenced in 2008 by a military court to seven years in prison amid a crackdown on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest organized opposition group.

Mubarak named Shafik, a former air force general, as prime minister on Jan. 31.

Following renewed demonstrations, the Cabinet was shuffled on Feb. 22 and for the first time in decades included members of opposition parties. That Cabinet had a new deputy prime minister and 10 new ministers

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