May 24, 2019

Mubarak shuffles cabinet

With protesters it is all about not blinking first. As you can see I am not blinking at the moment, and yes the chair is real gold.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has announced a new cabinet after a week of protests.

With thousands still gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Mubarak seemed to be hoping that it will all go away. He sent some tanks on a day trip to Cairo and got some planes and helicopters to buzz the city.

Once it became obvious that the crowds were not interested in a free air show or playing ‘chicken’ with armoured vehicles Mubarak was forced to move to the next level which is the cabinet reshuffle.

The rules of cabinet reshuffles are simple. Pick a few ministers that are not popular and replace them with others who the mob might like better. This hopefully will distract the people from the ‘elephant in the room’ which of course is Mubarak himself.

Egypt is one of those ‘cradle of civilization’ type countries. They have been doing stuff for thousands of years. It is only natural that they have taken their time – well 30 years to be precise – to decide that they don’t like or want President Mubarak.

Mubarak must be looking very hard behind the scenes at the moment at possible exile spots where he can live a simple lifestyle with his stashed loot. Obviously the superannuation scheme in the Egyptian air force is among the best in the world. A humble general can end up retiring with billions of dollars.

Mubarak knows the writing is on the wall when one of its closest allies the United States has Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talking about an “orderly transition of power”. It seems the Americans have done the arithmatic on this situation and don’t want another Shah of Iran type situation where they backed a losing cause.

Interior Minister Habib al-Adly was not very popular so he is gone, along with the finance minister. But many of the old Mubarak cronies are still there like Defence Minister Gen Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

It is always a fine balancing act between presenting enough new faces to make the protests go away, but not making any new enemies by sacking ministers with strong personal power bases. Hence the Defence Minister has been promoted to Deputy Prime Minister.

New Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has been ordered by President Mubarak to push through democratic reforms and create new jobs. I suppose 30 years for democratic reforms is better late than never.

Few of the 50,000 protesters in Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo appeared happy with the cabinet changes. “We will stay until the coward leaves,” the crowd was chanting.

Leaflets were being distributed to the crowds calling on the army to take the people’s side and resist orders to move against them.

Thousands of people have also rallied in Alexandria, and there have been demonstrations in Mansoura, Damanhour and Suez.

The trouble in Egypt has been triggered by the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia two weeks ago. Ben Ali had ruled for 23 years.

All over the Middle East dictatorial rulers are watching closely what happens in Egypt. Being nervous is in vogue at the moment. At least the other dictators in the region can watch it all on al jazeera or Google the latest news. In Egypt, Mubarak has shut these distractions down so his people can focus on protesting.