Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Preparing for a new term

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is expected to be sworn in by parliament soon amid news of a cabinet reshuffle, reports Gamal Essam El-Din


Archival photo of Al-Sisi delivering a speech in the parliament
Archival photo of Al-Sisi delivering a speech in the parliament

After winning a second term with 97 per cent of the vote in Egypt’s 2018 presidential elections, incumbent President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is expected to take his new oath of office in parliament. Parliamentary Spokesman Salah Hassaballah told Al-Ahram Weekly that President Al-Sisi will be sworn in for his second term on 2 June. “Intensive contacts between the president’s office and parliament’s secretariat-general are under way to conclude preparations for the swearing-in ceremony scheduled for the first week of June,” Hassaballah.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal announced Tuesday that parliament’s next plenary meetings will be held on 3 June. “This means that President Al-Sisi is expected to be sworn in on 2 June,” Hassaballah added.

Hassaballah argued that there is no constitutional or legislative article that stipulates that the government submit its resignation following the end of a presidential term and the swearing-in ceremony. “I know that the government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail is currently under attack in parliamentary and popular circles, but I insist that the constitution does not oblige the elected president to reshuffle the government at the beginning of a new term in office,” Hassaballah said.

Several MPs have slammed the government in recent weeks, accusing it of working in favour of wealthy classes and implementing IMF policies which have left millions of Egyptians living under the poverty line. The latest wave of attacks came this week when the government surprised all by increasing the price of Cairo’s underground metro tickets on 11 May. Infuriated, MPs accused the government of snubbing parliament because it took the decision without giving notice or a chance for the public to prepare.

Head of parliament’s Transportation Committee Hisham Abdel-Wahed told reporters that “MPs were shocked because Minister of Transportation Hisham Arafat vowed in front of the committee just two weeks ago that he would increase the price of the metro and railway tickets only after the quality of the service had noticeably improved.”

“MPs regret that they only learned about the decision from the media, and that the increase was so big that it hurt many poor and limited-income citizens who consider the metro their main means of transport in Cairo and Giza,” said Abdel-Wahed.

Mustafa Bakri, an independent MP, told the Weekly he was worried about the harmful impact of these increases on the majority of Egyptians.

Bakri said he hopes that President Al-Sisi’s swearing-in ceremony will be followed by a major cabinet reshuffle. “There is a widespread feeling among MPs and the public that incumbent Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has been in office for too long and that it is now high time for him to go,” Bakri, said, adding that not only is Ismail ill, but that people view him as a prime minister for the rich. “This has to change and we need a major cabinet shake-up in President Al-Sisi’s second term in office,” Bakri said.

Al-Sisi on Sunday announced the launch of a new online service for the public to direct questions to the president, saying it was part of an initiative to improve communications with the public. “As part of the constant quest for communication, the door has been opened to receive questions via from 13 to 15 May,” Al-Sisi said on his official Facebook page.

“From the very beginning, we have taken dialogue as a path to face challenges,” the president said in a brief statement. The “Ask the President” service is hosted on the portal of the World Youth Forum (WYF), the first edition of which Egypt launched in November 2017.

WYF conferences were devised two years ago by President Al-Sisi to answer the people’s questions on major issues such as cabinet reshuffles and political life.

Many question whether Ismail’s government will be reshuffled and whether economic reforms will be taken. Political analyst Gamal Zahran, a professor of political science at Suez Canal University, told the Weekly that an expected increase in the price of fuel, electricity and water in the coming period is what citizens now fear most, particularly after the dramatic and sudden rise in metro ticket prices. “Citizens fear that when they wake up one day they will be shocked by the news that prices of fuel and electricity have gone up and for this reason they want to change this government,” said Zahran, adding that “they want a government that cares more about their concerns and does not surprise them with shocking decisions, or at least raises wages and salaries to help the poor and limited-income absorb the shock.

“I think President Al-Sisi is also aware that a government which is lacking popularity and is performing poorly is not good for him or for his public standing,” Zahran said. “There could be a different government that will take the same decisions but in a different political and democratic way via a national dialogue and via the youth conferences which President Al-Sisi created and used to respond to citizens on the most pressing questions.”

Bakri believes many cabinet ministers are expected to leave office in a new government reshuffle. “Parliament’s dissatisfaction with the poor performance of a number of cabinet ministers led to changing them in a ministerial reshuffle in January,” said Bakri, adding that “if Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was kept in place, MPs would believe that there would be a need for a lot of members of his government to be changed.”

Salama Al-Gohari, a member of the Free Egyptians Party, told reporters this week that many MPs believe that “MPs are dissatisfied with the ministers of local administration, health, education, and transport due to the poor performance in these service ministries.”

Minister of Education Tarek Shawki told the media Monday that he expects “an imminent cabinet reshuffle in Egypt”.

Cabinet Spokesman Ashraf Sultan also told reporters one month ago that a cabinet reshuffle in Egypt was expected any time. However, he stressed that “regardless of news about this reshuffle, the government believes that it has to do its job up to the last moment,” Sultan said.

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