EGYPT: Tahrir Square protesters not appeased by ministerial reshuffle

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Protesters camping in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the 12th day remain unconvinced by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s overtures to placate them through a major Cabinet reshuffle.

“A minister comes, a minister goes and we’re yet to feel any change,” shouted scores of demonstrators in the square. Over the last few days, Sharaf has made sweeping changes to the Cabinet, appointing 12 new officials, including new foreign and finance ministers. Protesters are not impressed.


‘These changes are no more than an intrigue. Sharaf is trying to gain more time in order to destroy what’s left of the Jan. 25 revolution’s gains,’ Ayman Shalaby, a 49-year-old lawyer told The Times. ‘What they’re doing in the cabinet is no more than just flipping the same cards. The new ministers will be as bad as their predecessors and this is not what we called for.’

When asked about which names he wished to see taking over ministries in Sharaf’s cabinet, Shalaby said: ‘I can’t think of anyone who can be a good minister anyway.’

Contradiction in protesters’ opinions over the cabinet is one of many differences voiced by demonstrators over the goal of the Tahrir sit-in. It seems there are as many goals as there are protesters, including stripping power from the ruling military council and bringing officials to trial.

“Sharaf and his ministers are pressured by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces. SCAF has the first and final word on everything and any new minister will face the same problem,’ said Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed.

The majority of new ministers appointed by Sharaf are unknown to the Egyptian public. But the prime minister is quickly attempting to appease protesters by getting rid of officials who served under former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

Bishoy Tamri, another protester joining the sit-in, said apart from new Minister of Higher Education Moetaz Khourshid, he never heard of any of the newly appointed ministers before. The ranks of protesters has diminished since Friday, but some say they will remain in Tahrir until deep political reforms are made and former officials, including Mubarak, are brought to justice.

The strain has been heavy on the prime minister. Sharaf was taken to the hospital Monday evening and treated for fatigue and a drop in blood pressure. His condition stabilized and he left the hospital a few hours later.’

--Amro Hassan in Cairo