CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egypt’s new cabinet met for the first time on Wednesday with security high on its agenda and under attack from the Muslim Brotherhood and others who want it purged of ministers appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
In preparation for polls that military rulers have promised to hand over power to civilian rule in six months, activists announced the forming of a new political party on Wednesday.
The Brotherhood and other political groups have called for another million-man-march on Friday to fill Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, which was the nerve-centre for opposition to Mubarak’s 30-year iron rule, to call for a new cabinet.
Banned under Mubarak and playing an increasingly active role in Egyptian political life since the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, the Brotherhood wants the lifting of emergency law, freeing of political prisoners and a purge of the cabinet.
The cabinet discussed setting up a committee for national dialogue, policing, interior ministry services, detainees and the return of Egyptian citizens from strife-torn Libya.
Despite political pressure, further changes in the cabinet are unlikely, political sources said.
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that is running the Arab world’s most populous nation, swore in 10 new ministers on Tuesday. Some had opposed Mubarak, but key portfolios such as defence, interior, foreign affairs and justice were unchanged.
In the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections, a committee is amending the constitution to dismantle the apparatus that propped up Mubarak’s rule and political parties are being registered ahead of the polls.
A constitutional committee working on amendments should finish their work soon. “There will also be discussions over the … laws to pass the amendments that will be agreed upon. This should take a month,” an army source said.
“EGYPT THE FREE”
A former diplomat, Abdallah Alashaal, was quoted by MENA news agency on Wednesday as saying he was setting up a new “Egypt the Free” political party to participate in the polls.
“The establishment of the party comes within the framework and desire to make a real representation of the youth of Jan. 25 revolution during the coming period,” Alashaal said.
As the authorities pressed an anti-corruption campaign targeting officials from the Mubarak era, Egypt imposed travel bans on a former prime minister, a former minister and eight businessmen.
In a separate case, three leading figures appeared wearing white prison uniforms in a Cairo court, where they were made to sit in a metal cage while a judge announced a ruling blocking commercial dealings in their property.
The three were Zuhair Garana, a former tourism minister, Ahmed el-Maghrabi, who held the tourism and housing portfolios at different times, and Ahmed Ezz, a businessman who was a leading member of the ruling National Democratic Party.
The Brotherhood and youth groups are anxious that the emergency law, imposed after the assassination of Anwar Sadat by Islamist soldiers from his army in 1981, be lifted but some Cairo residents were not so convinced.
Another priority facing the cabinet is getting the nation back to work and to stop the protests and strikes that have damaged an economy already damaged by the turmoil of the revolution which erupted on Jan. 25.
The Egyptian stock market, which closed two days after the uprising started, has announced it will stay shut until next week.