Mohamed Mursi. Photo by Reuters
An Islamist minister has quit Egypt's government, the
second cabinet resignation this week, as President Mohamed
Mursi tries to shore up his authority and gather support for
unpopular austerity measures.
An economic crisis and a battle over a new constitution have
underlined bitter divisions between Islamist-backed Mursi and
his liberal opponents and delayed a return to stability
almost two years since a popular uprising.
Rivals accuse Mursi, who won Egypt's first freely contested
leadership election in June, of polarising society by
foisting a divisive, Islamist-leaning constitution on the
country and using the autocratic ways of his deposed
predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
Deadly violence preceded a referendum on the basic law,
dealing a blow to a struggling economy. Mursi's political
rivals refused to accept the result - the text won about 64
percent in the vote - and they reject his call for national
In a move that may pre-empt a planned reshuffle,
parliamentary affairs minister Mohamed Mahsoub announced he
was quitting because he disagreed with the slow pace of
"I have reached a clear conclusion that a lot of the policies
and efforts contradict my personal beliefs and I don't see
them as representative of our people's aspirations," he said
in his resignation letter, which has yet to be accepted by
the prime minister.
Communications Minister Hany Mahmoud quit earlier this week,
citing his inability to adapt to the government's "working
Neither were major figures in the cabinet but their decision
to criticise the substance and style of Mursi's
administration suggests his decisions are unnerving not just
opponents but also some allies.
Earlier on Thursday, a Christian member of Egypt's upper
house of parliament, Nadia Henry, quit a day after the
Islamist-dominated chamber took over legislative authority
under the new constitution.
The charter crafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly is
meant to be the cornerstone of a democratic and economically
stable Egypt after decades of authoritarian rule. The
opposition says it does nothing to protect minorities.
Mursi says the constitution and an upcoming vote to re-elect
the lower house of parliament will help end squabbling among
He and his Muslim Brotherhood allies say ordinary people are
fed up with street protests that often turn violent and want
the government to focus on urgent bread-and-butter issues.
The strife has cast doubt on the government's ability to push
through the spending cuts and tax hikes needed to secure a
vital $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan.
The Egyptian pound tumbled to its weakest in almost eight
years against the dollar this week as people rushed to
withdraw savings from banks.
Egypt's defence chief said the army - which dominated Egypt
for decades and has wide ranging business interests - was
ready to step in to help the economy.
"The Egyptian economy is going through a very difficult
stage," Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was quoted as saying by state
news agency MENA. "The armed forces are keen to participate
in development and service projects in all parts of Egypt as
part of its promise to serve the great people."
The resignations come ahead of a promised cabinet reshuffle.
Cabinet sources told Reuters as many as eight cabinet members
from second-tier ministries might go next week.
Mursi is also promising incentives aimed at making Egypt -
once a darling of emerging market investors - an attractive
place to do business again.
The 270-seat upper house, or Shura Council, holds legislative
authority until a new parliament is elected in early 2013.
Opposition figures say they fear the Council could issue laws
Henry represents Anglican Christians in Egypt. In a letter
published by state media, she said minority groups were not
represented properly in the chamber.
Her resignation underscores fears by Egypt's Christians, who
make up about a tenth of its 83 million population, about the
gains by Islamists since Mubarak was ousted in 2011.
Mubarak, who was sentenced to life in prison in June, was
moved to an army hospital on Thursday following a fall that
raised concerns about his fragile health.
Under pressure to acknowledge Egypt's diversity, Mursi
appointed 90 members including Christians, liberals and women
to the Council - alongside figures from the Muslim
Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Salafis - last week.
Two-thirds of the upper house were already elected in a vote
"We stress again that the nation should achieve internal
reconciliation and forget its differences," the Muslim
Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badei, told Egyptians in
his weekly message.
"Let's work seriously to end the reciprocal wars of
attrition. We urgently need to unify ranks and group together
and focus our capabilities and assets for the general