Monday, 18 July 2011

Egyptian PM Sharaf cancels El-Banna's nomination for antiquities

Embattled Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was faced with demands to replace a lot of ministers in his government whom protesters saw as related to the Mubarak regime. One of them was antiquities minister Zahi Hawass whom he had himself reinstated as Minister of State for Antiquities at the beginning of April. Hawass was summarily replaced by somebody popular with crowds, the guy he chose had led a number of protests against Hawass, even had his own You Tube channel engaged in it. Apparently just the sort of man that would appeal to the mob now occupying Tahrir Square. So he nominated (it seems even appointed) Abdel Fatah El-Banna to the post of Minister of Antiquities. But then it seems all hell broke lose. A lot of heritage professionals were very unhappy at the choice. The first signs of this which reached foreign observers was a post by Nora Shalaby (on Abdel-Fattah al-Banna - the new Antiquities Minister). She mentioned a 'strike' in the SCA protesting the appointment. About 1:30 pm egyptologist Nicole Hansen reported on Facebook: "Latest word is that al-Banna's appointment as minister has been frozen". It seems Sharaf was rethinking his initial choice. We recall that Zahi Hawass did say he had "files" on those who in January onwards were attacking him, were these now being brought into play by his supporters? Also it was being suggested that under the Constitution, the Egyptian Prime Minister does not currently have the authority to accept the resignation and appoint new ministers. Late afternoon, Sharaf cancelledEl-Banna's nomination to hold Egypt’s antiquities portfolio (Nevine El-Aref , 'PM Sharaf cancels El-Banna's nomination for antiquities' Al-Ahram 18 Jul 2011).
The decision was taken following the demonstrations of archaeologists and the employees of the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) at the front gate of the cabinet building calling for the cancellation of El-Banna’s nomination to the ministry's top post [...] El-Banna told Ahram Online that the cabinet had called him to cancel his nomination.
The question is I suppose, whose opinion was sought BEFORE Sharaf thought up his idea to appoint this rather blatant rabble-rouser as a minister? I would suggest this whole affair (apparently this is one of the reasons holding up the swearing in of a new cabinet tonight) calls his own leadership into question. Some blokes chanted slogans outside a few buildings, and their leader is (apparently without any wider consultation) appointed minister to appease the crowds, some more crowds gather to oppose it, he is immediately rejected again. So who is running the country?

UPDATE: Apparently Sharaf was hospitalised with stress-related symptoms on July 18th in the evening.

Vignette: Bemused, Essam Sharaf.

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