Egypt’s ruling military council has promised to reshuffle the cabinet, hours after the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament suspended sessions to protest the panel’s failure to heed repeated calls for the government’s dismissal.
Saad el-Katatni, parliament speaker and Muslim brotherhood member, said he received a call from the ruling generals promising to announce a reshuffle within 48 hours.
“It is my responsibility as speaker of the People’s Assembly (parliament) to safeguard the chamber’s dignity and that of its members“
– Saad el-Katatni, parliamentary speaker
Although the concession fell short of the parliament’s demand for a whole new cabinet, the speaker said the call restored parliament’s “dignity”.
The Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament, which seated three months ago, has been demanding it be allowed to form a cabinet to replace the military-appointed one it accuses of inefficiency.
The ruling generals, who have the power to sack the government, have resisted the calls and hinted at times that they will not allow the Brotherhood to dominate the country.
That resistance has also prompted the suspension of parliament sessions.
El-Katatni, announced the suspension after legislators spoke in a televised session against the cabinet and the ruling generals.
“It is my responsibility as speaker of the People’s Assembly (parliament) to safeguard the chamber’s dignity and that of its members. There must be a solution to this crisis,” el-Katatni told legislators before he adjourned the session until May 6.
Clashes in streets
Anger against the country’s military rulers also spilled into the streets where a protester was killed late on Saturday outside the Ministry of Defence.
Protesters clashed for three hours with unidentified assailants supporting the military, throwing rocks, firebombs and glass bottles at each other.
The clashes took place when the unidentified assailants set upon the protesters. Neither army troops or police attempted to stop the street battle, witnesses said.
They also reported hearing gunshots.
Many of those outside the Defence Ministry were supporters of an ultraconservative group angered by his disqualification from running in next month’s presidential election.
Security officials said the dead protester was a supporter of Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who was thrown out of the race because officials ruled his late mother had dual Egyptian-US citizenship in violation of eligibility rules.
Hospital officials said the protester died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Brotherhood verses military
The cabinet is headed by Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, a holdover from the era of former leader, Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising 14 months ago.
El-Ganzouri, who is in his late 70s, served as prime minister during the 1990s under Mubarak.
The Brotherhood controls just under half the seats in parliament and the row brings into focus the ambiguity of parliament’s actual powers at a time when the ruling generals enjoy near absolute executive powers.
The Brotherhood and the military are already at odds over what was widely seen as an attempt by the Brotherhood-led parliament to dominate a 100-member panel that was to draft a new constitution.
A court disbanded the panel and consultations are underway between political parties and the ruling generals over the composition of a new panel.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s military ruler, has hinted in several public comments in recent weeks that the powerful military would not allow the Brotherhood to dominate the country – a response to what is widely seen as the group’s hunger for power after 60 years operating illegally and subject to government crackdowns.
The credibility of the Brotherhood was dented when it announced it was fielding a candidate in presidential elections, reversing an earlier decision to stay out of the May 23-24 race.
An expected runoff will be held on June 16-17 and a winner will be announced on June 21.
The military has promised to hand over power by July 1.