CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said on Saturday he planned to reshuffle his cabinet in a move that could help build political consensus around a $4.8 billion loan Cairo is seeking from the International Monetary Fund.
Mursi’s opponents have been demanding the formation of a new government to oversee parliamentary elections expected to begin later this year. The United States, a major donor to Cairo, has grown more critical of Mursi of late, listing a lack of political inclusivity as one of its concerns.
The IMF has stressed the need for broad support for a loan agreement seen as vital to easing Egypt’s economic crisis but which is also likely to bring with it politically-sensitive austerity measures such as tax increases and subsidy cuts.
An IMF technical mission held 12 days of talks on the loan agreement but left earlier this week without an agreement. While in Cairo, the mission met an array of Egyptian opposition parties in an effort to broaden support for any deal.
In an interview with al-Jazeera television aired late on Saturday, Mursi said: “We are keen on the IMF, the World Bank, international institutions, and on dealing with them ... but what will serve the interests of the Egyptian citizen? That is what we will do.”
“The programs that serve (this) interest are not in accordance with what the IMF wants. I do not yield to conditions, internal or external. The only condition is realizing the interests of the Egyptian citizen.”
Asked why had Egypt had “failed” so far to secure the loan, Mursi said: “This is not failure. The IMF has its way, its tools, its means, its programs, and in Egypt we have our tools, our means and our programs ...”
“DEMANDS OF THE REVOLUTION”
“There is ongoing dialogue with the IMF to realize the future interests of the Egyptian citizen such that we do not impose on him now in a way that affects him in prices and other things,” Mursi said.
Tension between Mursi and his more secular-minded opponents has fuelled spasms of unrest since late last year, undermining hopes for economic recovery.
Mursi told al-Jazeera that the reshuffle would include multiple ministries and would happen soon. On Twitter, he said he would also change some of his provincial governors.
“Cabinet reshuffle and governors’ appointments, the most efficient will take up responsibility in order to achieve the demands of the revolution,” Mursi tweeted, referring to the 2011 uprising that ousted then President Hosni Mubarak.
Mursi did not say whether the reshuffle would include Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, whose performance has drawn increasingly fierce criticism, including from the Muslim Brotherhood that propelled him to power in an election last June.
Kandil was a little-known technocrat at the time of his appointment last July. Economists have faulted his government, which includes Brotherhood members in some ministries, for failing to get the economy moving.
It seems unlikely that Mursi will be able to draw his most critical opponents into government for now as the political division runs too deep. But he may be able to bring some liberals and moderate Islamists into cabinet, said Yasser El-Shimy, Egypt analyst with the International Crisis Group.
“Some of the ministers involved in the IMF negotiations will keep their jobs, such as (Planning Minister) Ashraf Al-Araby, but I think the IMF would be happy to see a coalition government,” El-Shimy said. “They would like to see a more consensual approach to politics.”
“With the parliamentary elections potentially not happening for six months, there might be hope that they can defuse the political standoff,” he added.
Mursi’s opponents are also demanding the removal of the prosecutor general, who was appointed by the president in November.
Writing by Shaimaa Fayed and Tom Perry; Editing by Rosalind Russell and Robin Pomeroy