CAIRO: Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who was hospitalized overnight for exhaustion, will spend the day resting and then finalize a new cabinet, the government said on Tuesday.
The new ministers were meant to be sworn in on Monday, but the ceremony was postponed for a day amid protests over the embattled premier’s choice of ministers.
Then Sharaf, 59, was briefly admitted to hospital on Monday night suffering from exhaustion.
Sharaf “is resting today on the advice of doctors after medical examinations following his illness last night, which was the result of hard work,” a cabinet statement said.
Sharaf was “in stable condition and he will resume consultations to finalize the new ministerial changes after that,” the statement said, denying “rumors on some websites about Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s resignation.”
A cabinet source said the premier would return to work on Wednesday and “finalize the cabinet tomorrow or the day after.”
The cabinet said on its Facebook page that Sharaf asked the current ministers to continue working until the new cabinet was sworn in.
Sharaf, who heads a caretaker government after a popular revolt toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak in February, had hoped the sweeping reshuffle would persuade protesters to end a sit-in at Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Fourteen new ministers and a deputy premier had been expected to take the oath of office before Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling military council.
But the protesters complained that the new cabinet retains ministers they wanted sacked, including Justice Minister Abdel Aziz Al-Gindi, whom they accuse of delaying trials of former regime officials, including Mubarak.
A protest leader told AFP that on Monday night activists handed a list to Sharaf of ministers they wanted replaced. Chief among them were Al- Gindi, interior minister Mansour El-Essawy and three ministers who had served under Mubarak.
Two nominees, for the antiquities and international trade ministries, have already backed off.
The appointment of Abdel Fatah Al-Banna as antiquities minister caused a backlash from ministry workers, leading Al-Banna to turn down the job. It was not immediately known why Ahmed Abdel-Wahab chose not to take up the trade portfolio.
There were consultations among protest leaders whether to end the sit-in, now in its 12th day, as divisions emerged over the new cabinet.
The liberal Wafd party was reported to have withdrawn from the protest after Sharaf appointed one of its senior members, Ali Al-Silmi, as his deputy.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the influential Islamist movement that joined a mass demonstration on July 8 that led to the sit-in, said there was no point to prolonging the protest and that the new cabinet should be given a chance.
“We wanted a temporary government of technocrats, and things are headed that way,” said Essam Al-Erian, a Brotherhood leader who doubles as vice president of the movement’s Freedom and Justice Party.
The protesters also risk the enmity of Egyptians who accuse them of destabilizing the country, which has seen a sharp decline in tourism and a rise in unemployment since the revolt that toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11.
Hard line Islamist groups have called for a mass demonstration for “stability” on Friday, a protest which the Muslim Brotherhood has publicly boycotted.