Egypt's interim prime minister announced Monday the resignation of his cabinet, a surprise move that could be designed in part to pave the way for the nation's military chief to leave his defence minister's post to run for president.
Hazem el-Beblawi's military-backed government was sworn in on July 16, less than two weeks after Field Marsh Abdel-Fettah el-Sissi, the defence minister, ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after a year in office.
The government's resignation, announced by el-Beblawi in a live TV broadcast, came amid a host of strikes, including one by public transport workers and garbage collectors. An acute shortage of cooking gas has also been making front page news the past few days.
- Mohammed Morsi passed secrets to Iran, hearing told
- The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist group by Egypt in December
It was not immediately clear whether el-Beblawi will stay at the helm of a new government or will step aside for a new prime minister.
El-Beblawi has often been derided in the media for his perceived indecisiveness and inability to introduce effective remedies to the country's economic woes. He has also been criticized for the security forces' inability to prevent high-profile terror attacks blamed on militants sympathetic with Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
Outgoing PM calls for sacrifice
The outgoing prime minister acknowledged the difficult conditions in which his cabinet functioned, but suggested that Egypt was in a better place now that it was when he first took office.
"The cabinet has over the past six or seven months shouldered a very difficult and delicate responsibility and I believe that, in most cases, it achieved good results," el-Beblawi said. The goal, he added, was to take Egypt out of a "narrow tunnel" brought about by security, political and economic pressures.
Commenting on the flurry of strikes, the outgoing prime minister cautioned Egyptians that this was not the time for making demands. "We must sacrifice our personal and workers' interests for the benefit of the nation."
A presidential bid by the popular el-Sissi has been widely anticipated and leaving him out of the next cabinet will most likely be accompanied or soon followed by an announcement by the 59-year-old soldier that he is running.
El-Sissi has already secured the support of Egypt's top military body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to launch a presidential bid.
Already, the career infantry officer trained in Britain and the United States has been acting in a somewhat presidential manner. He paid a highly publicized visit to Russia earlier this month, when he secured the goodwill of the Kremlin and negotiated a large arms deal. His wife made her first public appearance since el-Sissi's ouster of Morsi last week, seated next to him in a military ceremony.