CAIRO -- Egypt’s ruling military leader vowed Sunday he would reshuffle the nation’s unpopular Cabinet, according to state media, in a move seen as an attempt to calm growing anger in the Islamist-controlled Parliament ahead of next month’s presidential elections.
The decision by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi came hours after Parliament, nearly half of which is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, threatened to suspend legislative sessions for a week to protest Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri’s government. Parliament has been critical of the military-backed regime for months, but the generals have indicated they would not tolerate a no-confidence vote.
Egyptian media, quoting members of Parliament, reported the Cabinet would undergo a limited restructuring in coming days to include officials from the country’s dominant political forces. The Ganzouri government is widely mistrusted and viewed as a throwback to deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
Speaker of Parliament Saad Katatni said Tantawi phoned him to say that changes would be made to the government. Katatni characterized the call as restoring Parliament’s “dignity.” Tantawi made no immediate comment.
The conflict over the Cabinet is unfolding as the military and the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to protect and expand their powers before the May 23-24 presidential vote. The two sides had cooperated for months but relations have soured as Parliament has been viewed as a shadow entity against the more powerful army. Tantawi’s promise appears to give the legislature -- and the Brotherhood -- a degree of the legitimacy they crave.
The military’s choice of Ganzouri, a prime minister under Mubarak, was opposed by activists and protesters in November. The Brotherhood also criticized the selection but, at the time, was concentrating its efforts on campaigning for parliamentary elections. After winning the legislature, Islamists stepped up their attacks on the government, which they blamed for being a tool of the military and stifling Parliament.
“Ganzouri should act politically and listen to the parliament and not act with stubbornness and arrogance,” said Sobhi Saleh, a member of parliament with the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. “If I was in his place, I'd have at least changed five or six ministers to absorb the Parliament's anger."
Another legislator, Mohamed Anwar Sadat, said: “Life between the Cabinet and the Parliament is impossible this way.”
-- Jeffrey Fleishman
Photo: Parliamentary Speaker Saad Katatni, top center, and Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri, center, attend an emergency working session in the parliament in Cairo in February. Credit: Associated Press.