Egypt's government in 'shock' resignation, paving way for Sisi

Armed forces chief, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, widely expected to become president

LAST UPDATED AT 13:05 ON Mon 24 Feb 2014

EGYPT'S military-backed government has resigned, fuelling speculation that the armed forces chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has engineered the "shock" move so he can run for president.

Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi announced the resignation in a televised statement today, but gave no reason for the decision.

It was not immediately clear who would replace Beblawi, or if he would even stand down at all. However, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper, claimed that outgoing housing minister, Ibrahim Mihlib, was expected to succeed him.

Beblawi was appointed prime minister in July last year after the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi amid mass protests against his one-year rule.

Today he acknowledged the difficult conditions his cabinet had faced, but suggested that he would be leaving Egypt a better place than it was when he first took office.

Beblawi has been derided in the media in recent weeks for his apparent indecisiveness and failure to bring in effective economic policies, says The Independent.

"The cabinet's resignation has nonetheless come as a shock in the country," says the newspaper, "despite being announced amid a host of strikes and with Egypt's businesses, national security and tourism industry all in turmoil."

The cabinet submitted its resignation to the interim president, Adly Mansour, following a 15-minute meeting this morning, attended by Field Marshal Sisi, the armed forces chief who was also serving as defence minister, according to local media. Sisi would have had to have resigned from his cabinet role in order to run for president.

Reuters says the move is likely to pave the way for Sisi to declare his candidacy for president.

According to the new constitution, approved in January, an election must take place by mid-April and Sisi is widely believed to be likely to win, given his popularity and the lack of any serious rivals.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has already announced that he is backing Sisi for the presidency. · 

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