By Samer Al-Atrush /AFP
CAIRO: The new cabinet, aimed at mollifying protesters demanding quick reforms, was expected to be sworn on Thursday, three days behind schedule, after intense wrangling left the premier in hospital.
“Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has completed discussions to form the new cabinet and it will be sworn in today (Thursday) in front of (the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi,” the cabinet’s official Facebook page said.
The new cabinet had been due to take the oath of office on Monday, but the ceremony was postponed for a day amid protests over the embattled premier’s choice of ministers.
On Tuesday, the government said that Sharaf, 59, had been admitted to hospital overnight suffering from exhaustion and would spend the day resting before finalizing the new cabinet.
Sharaf, who has faced calls to resign because of his cabinet’s limited powers under the ruling military, thanked supporters in a statement on his Facebook page and said the country faced obstacles to its “revival.”
“The thing that most lightens my burden is the appreciation from some of you of the difficulties I face that hinder my performance and do not help Egypt’s revival,” he wrote on Tuesday.
Sharaf, who heads a caretaker government, had hoped the sweeping reshuffle would persuade protesters to end a sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Fourteen new ministers and a deputy premier had been expected to take the oath.
The cabinet that will be sworn-in is likely to see several previous nominees replaced, but most of the changes do not meet protesters’ demands, state media reported.
The protesters complained that the new cabinet retained ministers they wanted sacked, including Justice Minister Abdel Aziz Al-Gindi, whom they accused of delaying trials of former regime officials, including ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
The independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported that the antiquities ministry, created in Mubarak’s final year, will be abolished after protesters said that an Islamic relics expert who had been nominated for the portfolio was unfit for the post.
Activists have called for a mass demonstration on Friday, dubbing it the “Decisive Friday”, while hardline Islamist groups say they are organizing a counter-demonstration for “stability.”
It will be the second cabinet to take office in the face of protests since a nationwide revolt overthrew Mubarak in February.
He is now under arrest on murder and corruption charges in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, undergoing treatment for a heart condition.
Sharaf’s cabinet was sworn in weeks after the strongman’s resignation on Feb.11, after mass protests persuaded the ruling military to sack Mubarak’s last cabinet.