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Significance of Resignation of the Egyptian Prime Minister (Guest Bloggers)

Posted on the 16 March 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
This piece was authored by Tarek Reisen, Volkan Sekren, Mustafa El Ezzi, Tawfiq ElKheshen and Mohammed Abdel Hakim. Many thanks for their insightful analysis.
On March 3, 2011 -- Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik resigned, caving in to protesters who insisted that Cabinet members named by former President Hosni Mubarak leave office.
Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik is not a new face to the Egyptian public. He has been part of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. When the Mubarak government was in power, Shafik was the Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation. During the revolution and before his fall, Mubarak appointed him as interim Prime Minister. After the fall of Mubarak, the military was forced to take control until the appointment of a new president and Shafik received an order from the military “…to run the country’s affairs for six months or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections” (“Egypt Prime Minister Resigns,” 2011).
The Egyptian public considered Shafik the last remnant of a failed and corrupted old regime. The period preceding his resignation witnessed permanent alertness of the Egyptian’s conspiracy antennas. Questions were asked such as” why is a student of Mubarak and a close fellow still heading the cabinet and why is he leading a technocratic government which is responsible to guide Egypt through until the first ever sought after democratic elections take place?” These issues were debated on daily basis in the Egyptian media. Security is one of the basic needs of any citizen; sitting at home with the “I am SAFE” feeling is priceless. All of Egypt lacked this necessary feeling during the time Shafik led the interim government. The situation continued to be appalling till it reached a state of disequilibrium. The police role was plainly non-existent, because the police had been pulled off the street, and were seen as loyal to the Mubarak government.
Shafik’s reactions towards the revolution were what we can call “dim-witted.” In his first appearance commenting on the revolts in Tahrir Square, he made fun of the freedom fighters in Tahrir square focusing on the fact that they should move on because the president gave them what they chanted and insisted that no more compromises would be given from the government side. As the events progress and the revolts gain more grounds, he made his second public comment on the situation and said the revolts are not helping the Egyptian economy, protestors should return home, get a grip of themselves and start pushing the production wheel in Egypt for the development wheel to run again. In a very sarcastic language he literally said it “let them stay if they want, provided they remain in the garden of the square and every day we will send them food and also sweets.”
Despite the efforts made by Shafik to make changes to appease the Egyptian public rage, it hardly made any progress in how the Egyptian public viewed his role. The Egyptian public considered him part of the corrupted system which Mubarak designed (“Egypt Prime Minister Resigns,” 2011). Therefore, seeing Shafik in power kept igniting anger among anti-Mubarak regime resulting in non-stop demonstrations to call for his resignation. Shafik had no choice but to give up and resign “…caving in to protesters who are insisting that Cabinet members named by former President Hosni Mubarak leave office” (Fam, 2011).
The new Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, on the other hand, was able to win thousands of Egyptian hearts. Let’s say he knew how to start playing the game right until this moment. He has demonstrated a number of leadership qualities during the short period he has been in power . First of all, the first action Sharaf has taken on the first day of his appointment as Prime Minister was to go to Tahrir Square to meet the protestors and on the podium he announced that his legitimacy derives from the people in Tahrir, which is a profound statement to make considering he was appointed by the Military and that the country is currently under military rule. Sharaf was ‘thinking politically’ and reinforcing his credibility with the people, which his predecessor has failed to do. It was no surprise that most of the protestors left Tahrir shortly afterwards and only a small number remained. Through his vision, he could see that the balance of power has shifted and is now with the people and that if he is to reach his goals he would need to have people on his side otherwise no matter how hard he tried his efforts would be in vain since people will be sceptical of his actions.
Secondly, Sharaf also realised that symbolic gestures were not going to be enough and that he would need to communicate with people more openly and get personally involved in their grievances. When a group of Copts were demonstrating in front of the TV building against the demolition of a church, he personally went to speak to them and assured them that the church would be rebuilt and that work would start immediately. This empathy has allowed him to gain more credibility and has fostered an image of him as a man of the people rather than his predecessor who was more aloof.
What he has done so far shows that he deserves to hold the position of the new Egyptian prime minister even though he competed against other prominent figures such as Nobel Prize Winner Ahmed Zuweil, world renowned scientist Farouk El Baz, former prime minister Kamal El Ganzoury, and minister of internal trade and supply Ahmed Goweily.
Sharaf, graduated from Cairo University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Afterwards he traveled to the States to continue his academic path to gain a master’s and Phd degree from Purdue University in 1984. Sharaf, came back to Egypt and worked as an assistant professor at Cairo University. During that time, he also acted as a transportation consultant for the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Although his mid-2004 major peak was when he was appointed as the Minister of Transportation, it wasn’t long enough until he officially stepped down from his position, due to his dissatisfaction with the “…mismanagement and corruption under Mr Mubarak[’s regime]” (“Profile: Egyptian Prime Minister…,” 2011), which was one of his biggest points of support for him to be appointed now as prime minister.
References:
1. BBC News (2011). “Profile: Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12668416
2. “Egypt Prime Minister Resigns,” (2011). OnIslam.net. http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/451335-egypt-premier-resigns.html
3. Eleiba, Ahmed, and Marwa Huseein (2011). “Meet Essam Sharaf: Egypt’s first Post Revolution Prime Minsiter”. http:// ahram.org.eg/News Content/1/64/6892, 3 March 2011
4. Fam, Mariam (2011). “Egyptian Prime Minister Shafik Resigns, Caving Into Key Protester Demands.” Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-03/egypt-military-accepts-shafik-resignation-asks-sharaf-to-form-government.html
5.Osman, Ahmed Zaki (2011). “Egypt's newly-appointed Prime Minister Essam Sharaf: A profile.” Al-Masry Al-Youm. http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/338341
6.Sediq Ahmed, “The fall of Ahmed Shafiq”, Al Sharq Al Awsat Daily, 15 March 2011. http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=24399

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