A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Egypt: Shafiq Out, Sharaf In After Shafiq TV Debate

Interim Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq is out, replaced by Essam Sharaf, formerly Transportation Minister. Shafiq's removal had been a demand of the continuing protests, since he was seen as a longtime associate of Mubarak's. Like the parallel case of Mohamed Ghannouchi in Cairo, he became a symbol of the survival of the old regime despite the departure of the heae, and like Ghannouchi, he too is now gone. Sharaf, in fact, is said to have himself joined the protests.

[Update: Some Egyptian bloggers are tweeting that the new interim Cabinet to be named by Sharaf will not include Foreign Minister Abu al-Ghait or Interior Minister Wagdy, whose departure has also been demanded.]

Possibly related to the timing: Last night Shafiq appeared on television for what turned into an hours-long debate with some strong regime critics: a rare case of a sitting Middle Eastern leader being held to account in a public forum. Zeinobia has a summary of it here, and there was minute by minute tweeting by Egyptian commenters last night. Apparently Shafiq lost his cool a few times, so perhaps that helped him lose his job this morning.

Once again, the Egyptian events are tracking developments in Tunisia fairly closely: old leader finally departs (after three speeches making limited concessions); interim leadership names member of old guard as transitional leader; protests continue until he's gone, too.

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