Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak swore in a new Cabinet on Monday, replacing one dissolved as a concession to unprecedented anti-government protests.
In the most significant change, the Interior Minister — who heads internal security forces — was replaced. A retired police general, Mahmoud Wagdi, was named to replace Habib el-Adly, who is widely despised by protesters for brutality shown by security forces.
Still, the new Cabinet is unlikely to satisfy the tens of thousands of protests who have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt the past week demanding nothing short of the ouster of Mr. Mubarak and his entire regime. As news of the appointments broke, thousands massed in the protest’s epicentre, Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, broke into chants of “we want the fall of the regime.”
“We dont recognise any decisions Mubarak has taken since January 25,” Mostafa el-Naggar, a supporter of prominent reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, referring to the first day of the protests. “This is a failed attempt — he is done with.”
Mr. Mubarak announced the dissolving of the previous government late Friday, naming his intelligence chief and close aide Omar Suleiman as Vice-President and former Air Force general Ahmed Shafiq as Prime Minister. But protesters immediately rejected the move as an attempt by Mr. Mubarak, Egypt’s authoritarian ruler of nearly 30 years, to cling to power.
The new line-up of Cabinet ministers announced on state television included stalwarts of Mr. Mubarak’s regime but purged several of the prominent businessmen who held economic posts and have engineered the country’s economic liberalisation policies the past decades. Many Egyptians resented the influence of millionaire politician-moguls, who were close allies of Mr. Mubarak’s son, Gamal, long thought to be the heir apparent for the Presidency.
In the new Cabinet, Mr. Mubarak retained his long-serving Defence Minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi — and gave him an additional title of Deputy Prime Minister — and also kept Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
But for some posts, Mr. Mubarak brought in new blood by naming figures who hold widespread respect in their fields. For example, Gaber Asfour, a prominent literary figure, was named Culture Minister. He replaced the longest-serving Cabinet member, Farouq Hosni, who had held the post for more than 25 years. Also, Egypt’s most famous archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, was named State Minister for Antiquities, a new post.
State newspapers on Monday published a sternly worded letter from Mr. Mubarak to his new Prime Minister, Mr. Shafiq, ordering him to move swiftly to introduce political, legislative and constitutional reforms.
He also appeared to distance himself from the economic policies directed by his son Mr. Gamal Mubarak, widely blamed for causing a wide gap between the rich and poor, for whom economic hardships have deepened. In the letter, Mr. Mubarak urged “new economic policies that give maximum care to an economic performance which pays heed to the suffering of the citizens, and lightening their burden.”