Monday, February 21, 2011

Egyptian military reshuffle cabinet, more constitutional changes towards democracy

Yehia al-Gamal

The Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafiq has announced a cabinet reshuffle in an apparent reaction to the mass demonstations of Friday. The new cabinet excludes all prominent members of the former ruling National Democratic Party. Six prominent members of the defunct NDP are dismissed, Al Ahram reports . They are minister of Justice, Mamdouh Marei, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mufid Shehab, Minister of Manpower, Aisha Abdel-Hady, minister of petroleum, Sameh Fahmi., Ali al-Moselhi, minister of social solidarity; and Hani Helal, minister of higher education. Most of these ministers served in former President Hosni Mubarak’s cabinets and are deemed unacceptable by many segments in Egyptian society.
Yet two unpopular figures might stay in office: Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit. Before he resigned, Mubarak reshuffled his cabinet and appointed Shafiq, the former aviation minister, as prime minister.
Newcomers are the respected law expert and professor at Cairo University, Yahia a-Gamal, who is also active in ElBaradei´s Movement for Change. He will be vice-prime minister, Al-Masry al-Youm reported  Mounir Abdel Nour, secretary-general of the Wafd party, became tourism minister. Abdel Nour is a Copt. The prominent economist Gouda Abdel-Khaleq from the opposition Tagammu party, became minister of social solidarity and social justice. The post of information minister was scrapped. Amr Hamzawy, a political analyst and member of the so-called council of "Wise Men" which sought to mediate a resolution during the uprising, became minister for youth, Al-Masry al-Youm reported
Al-Masry al-Youm also quotes Al-Ahram, which has updates from the legal commission in charge of amending the Constitution. The commission is obviously going further in its alterations than originally was announced. The paper quotes Tariq al-Bishri, the commission’s head, as saying that constitutional articles granting the president broad powers will be modified. The commission will also amend legislation that regulates the exercise of political rights and parliamentary elections. For decades, these laws have acted as a draconian impediment to pluralism. “The commission is keen to make these amendments compatible with the democratic opening that the country is headed toward,” al-Bishri says.

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