Last updated: 29 April, 2012

Egypt parliament suspended in row with military

The head of Egypt’s ruling military has told parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni he will reshuffle the government ahead of next month’s presidential election, the Muslim Brotherhood website said on Sunday.

“Field Marshal (Hussein) Tantawi tells Katatni he will reshuffle the government in the coming hours,” the site said.

The official MENA news agency quoted Katatni as saying the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) would “announce the reshuffle within the next 48 hours.”

“Saad al-Katatni has indicated that the military council is heading for a ministerial reshuffle in the heart of Kamal al-Ganzuri’s government,” the agency added.

Ganzuri was a minister under ousted president Hosni Mubarak and is accused by the Islamists of stalling the revolution.

Sunday’s move came after the Islamist-dominated parliament decided to suspend sessions for a week in protest at the military refusing to sack the government and name the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to head a new one.

A marathon parliamentary election which ended in January saw Egypt’s two main Islamist parties catapulted to the centre stage of politics, clinching nearly three quarters of the 498 seats in the legislature.

The FJP, political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, has been pressuring the SCAF ever since to sack the government and name it to lead a new cabinet.

But the SCAF, which took over when Mubarak was ousted on February 11 last year after a popular uprising, has continued to back Ganzuri’s government.

“This crisis must be resolved,” Katatni said before the Muslim Brotherhood announcement of a pending reshuffle.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, including (reforming) the panel on the constitution. We have no wish to hamper parliament, but we need a solution, and that’s why I propose that parliamentary sessions be suspended for a week.”

Several members of parliament also demanded that the current government be dismissed, before Katatni’s proposal for a suspension was approved by MPs, with parliament next set to meet on May 6.

MENA said Katatni was later informed by the SCAF of its “respect for the assembly of the people and its deputies,” adding that the speaker of parliament called the communication “satisfying, and rendering dignity to the assembly.”

Sunday’s political developments come ahead of a presidential election in which the Islamists are seeking to consolidate their power over the new Egypt.

They also come after overnight clashes in the capital in which one person was killed and 119 people were wounded when Salafist protesters clashed with residents of a Cairo neighbourhood, the health ministry said.

Dozens of supporters of Hazem Abu Ismail marched towards the city’s Abbassiya district to protest against the electoral commission’s decision to bar the popular hardline Islamist from contesting the presidential poll.

They were attacked by Abbassiya residents, according to the official MENA news agency.

The clashes lasted until dawn, with both sides throwing rocks and petrol bombs and firing buckshot, a member of the security forces said.

One person was killed and 119 injured, most of them lightly, the health ministry said.

Protests in Egypt since Mubarak’s departure from power have often turned violent, with thugs working for the military leadership frequently blamed.

The electoral commission on April 14 barred 10 candidates, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat El-Shater and the former president’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, from standing in the poll to choose Mubarak’s successor.

Abu Ismail’s nomination was rejected because his mother had taken joint US citizenship, but many of his supporters believe he was the victim of a “plot” by the authorities.

The first round of the presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24, and the interim military leadership has promised to hand power to an elected civilian president by the end of June.