Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has resigned unexpectedly, sparking celebrations from protesters who want a purge of the remnants of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
The country’s military rulers said on Thursday that Shafiq would be replaced by Essam Sharaf, a former transport minister who joined the rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that led to Mubarak’s resignation on Feb. 11.
Egypt’s bourse, which closed a month ago when nationwide anti-regime protests erupted, said it would announce resumption of trading after discussions with the new prime minister.
Strongman Mubarak appointed Shafiq in the dying days of his rule in a bid to quell the protests. Shafiq stayed on as head of a caretaker government under a military council that has run Egypt since Mubarak stood down.
“The Supreme Council of Military Forces announces that it has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq,” the council said in a statement, without giving reasons for the move.
Dozens of youth activists who are camped out in Tahrir Square celebrated after Shafiq’s resignation was announced, the state news agency MENA reported.
Since Mubarak’s fall, protesters have continued to call for replacing the current government, which includes the Mubarak-era foreign minister, interior minister and justice minister.
Activists had put forward Sharaf’s name during talks with the military on Sunday in which they also called for rapid, profound changes toward democracy.
“We are happy, we had proposed his name and our demand has been accepted,” said Shadi al-Ghazali, a leader of the youth movement.
Key opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who headed the Vienna-based UN atomic watchdog from 1997 to 2009 and returned to Egypt to join the protests, welcomed Shafiq’s resignation.
“We are on the right track, I express my sincere appreciation to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces who have accepted the demand of the people,” he tweeted.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she hoped the move would facilitate Egypt’s transition to democracy.
Noting Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq’s resignation and Essam Sharaf’s appointment to form a new government, Ashton said she hoped the transition phase would now “make meaningful progress towards an inclusive and broad-based government that responds to the citizens’ democratic aspirations.”
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