Egypt’s ruling military council has promised to reshuffle the Cabinet, hours after the Islamist-dominated parliament suspended sessions to protest the panel’s failure to heed repeated calls for the government’s dismissal.
Parliamentary Speaker Saad el-Katatni said on Sunday he received a call from the ruling generals promising to announce a reshuffle within 48 hours. 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 seated three months ago has been demanding it be allowed to form a Cabinet to replace the military-appointed one currently in place, which 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 won’t allow the Brotherhood to dominate the country.
That resistance prompted the suspension of parliament sessions. El-Katatni, a Brotherhood member, announced the suspension after lawmakers 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 lawmakers before he adjourned the session until next Sunday.
Anger against the country’s military rulers also spilled into the streets where a protester was killed late on Saturday outside the Egyptian Ministry of Defense. Protesters clashed for three hours with unidentified assailants supporting the military, throwing rocks, firebombs and glass bottles at each other.
The Cabinet is headed by Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, a holdover from the era of authoritarian former president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising 14 months ago.
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 Islamists in parliament to dominate a 100-member panel that was to draft a new constitution.
A court disbanded the panel and consultations are under way between political parties and the ruling generals over the composition of a new panel.
Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, 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.
Saturday night’s 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.
Demonstrations in Egypt have frequently been attacked by unidentified assailants, particularly protests that are near or outside the defense ministry. Rights and pro-democracy activists have blamed the attacks on undercover police, petty criminals on the police payroll, plainclothes army soldiers or supporters of the former Mubarak regime.