Egypt has been embroiled in daily protests over the parliamentary-election process and and a new constitution [AFP]

A new Egyptian cabinet is expected to be announced on Thursday amid ongoing protests in Cairo over the supposed slow pace of reform and a fierce national debate over the future role of the military in politics.

The new cabinet had been due to take the oath of office on Monday, but the ceremony was postponed due to demonstrations at Tahrir Square over the prime minister's choice of ministers.

Essam Sharaf, who heads a caretaker government, had hoped the cabinet reshuffle would persuade protesters to end a sit-in.

But the protesters have complained that the new cabinet retains ministers they wanted sacked for their alleged links to the Hosni Mubarak, the former president.

Despite concerns over more delays, a senior military official has said the cabinet appointment will go ahead as planned.

"The new ministers in Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's government will be sworn in on Thursday in front of the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi," the official told the state MENA news agency.

The government said on Tuesday that Sharaf had been admitted to hospital overnight suffering from exhaustion and would spend the day resting before finalising the new cabinet.

Fourteen new ministers and a deputy premier are expected to take the oath.

Transition to democracy

As the cabinet takes shape, Egypt is also embroiled in debates over the drafting of a new constitution and the process for parliamentary elections now scheduled for later this year.

Shaheen said voters will cast ballots for both lower and upper houses at the same time and the elections will be held in 120 voting districts.

"The army's role during the elections will be to provide security only. Only the judiciary will monitor," Shaheen said.

Many Egyptians believe the ruling generals are trying to carve out a future role for themselves, possibly with the authority to intervene in politics. Their push appears to be driven by the military's fear of losing the near-autonomous power it has enjoyed for almost 60 years.

The military's future place in public life has become a divisive issue in Egypt, with some viewing the army as a bulwark against religious radicals rising to power and others as a force protecting its own interests and those of the remnants of Mubarak's government.

Some critics fear the military may be looking to impose its will at a time when the country is trying to move towards democratic rule with civilians heading the government.

Source: Agencies