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Egyptian Cabinet to resign, official says

Move opens way for top general to run for president

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi did not give a reason for the mass resignation.

EPA

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi did not give a reason for the mass resignation.

CAIRO — Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said Monday his Cabinet was resigning, marking yet another abrupt shift in a nation that has been wracked by insurgency and political and economic uncertainty.

Beblawi did not offer any reason for the surprise move. But the mass resignation clears the way for the country’s powerful military commander, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is also the country’s defense minister and first deputy prime minister, to run for president.

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Beblawi and the current Cabinet were appointed in July, after Sissi led the military in ousting Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi.

The Cabinet will remain in office in a caretaking capacity until a new one is formed.

Sissi, 59, a career infantry officer, has been defense minister since Morsi named him to the Cabinet post in August 2012. He has already secured the support of Egypt’s top military body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to seek the presidency.

Cabinet reshuffles have occurred frequently in the past three years of political unrest in Egypt, since a popular uprising ended the 30-year rule of strongman Hosni Mubarak.

But analysts say the country has moved increasingly over the past eight months to resume the profile of a military autocracy.

The state has carried out a heavy-handed crackdown on Morsi’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood, immobilizing an organization that once represented the country’s most organized political force.

The Cabinet resignation also came amid a wave of labor strikes that have amplified pressure on the government, which critics say has been slow to propose economic solutions during its nearly eight months in power.

Critics have derided the country’s post-coup interim president and government as puppets of the military leadership. Rumors circulated about an imminent Cabinet reshuffle after Egyptians voted last month to approve a new military-backed constitution.

‘‘I would assume that it’s the reshuffle that has been expected for a while, but that most of the Cabinet will remain,’’ said Issandr El Amrani, an Egypt specialist who oversees the International Crisis Group’s North Africa division.

It has been typical for an entire Cabinet to resign as part of a reshuffle, before members are mostly reappointed to the same positions, Amrani said of Egypt’s recent history. ‘

Sissi, who last month was promoted to field marshal — the military’s highest rank — has signaled he would probably compete in Egypt’s upcoming presidential election, slated for spring.

Sissi enjoys vast popularity, and — due to the state’s ongoing crackdown that has landed virtually all of the military’s formidable opponents in jail — he faces little competition.

But analysts say that to compete, Sissi would have to formally resign from his position as defense minister.

‘‘A lot of information and knowledge stands behind every decision that is made, and it’s in the [country’s] best interest for [that information] not to be published,’’ Beblawi said cryptically of the Cabinet resignation, in his address to the nation. ‘‘If it were published, it would be apparent to the people why this decision was taken.’’

The new constitution gives the military the exclusive right to pick the defense minister for the next two, four-year presidential terms. In Egypt, the defense minister is routinely the armed forces’ commander in chief.

In August, Beblawi’s government authorized security forces to storm pro-Morsi sit-in protests in Cairo, and hundreds were killed in resulting violence.

It also labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

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