Beblawi, another “punching bag”?

No one seems to know the reason of the Egyptian cabinet’s ressignation anounced on Monday by former Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi. Neither government spokespersons, nor the leaders of Beblawi’s party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party had a clue. Not even the ministers of his government, some of whom learnt about their fate just a few minutes before the Egyptian citizens.

What could be this secret reason that Beblawi could not explain in his anouncement? Hossam Eissa, the Higher Education Minister declared to Foreign Policy that the Prime Minister was fed up with receiving so many critics and had wanted to resign since long time ago. Maybe this is true. It would be shameful for an alledged statesman like Beblawi to recognize publicly that he could not support the pressure of the job.

But there could be another reason hard to confess: he was forced to resign by the Army leaders. The official narrative is that Egypt has a civilian government, and that Mohamed Morsi was removed by a “popular revolution” and not a “military coup”. Hence, neither Beblawi nor anyone else could openly say that the Armed Forces were the ones who took the decision.

This latter explanation makes a lot of sense. Beblawi’s government had lost popularity, and it could drag Abdelfattah al-Sisi candidacy. He needs to inspire a sense of hope for a better future among the population, so he would rather not be linked to a failing cabinet. The minister of Defense has yet to anounce his intention to run in the presidential elections, but no one doubts he will do it, especially after the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces endorsed him in January.

From a purely administrative point of view, the move does not make any sense though. Beblawi’s cabinet was chosen in July as an interim one. Its mandate was supposed to end after a new president was chosen. In theory, this will happen within a few weeks. And that will be the span of life of a new government, since it is expected that the new president will choose his own government.

There is an old tradition in the Middle East to spare Prime Ministers at a time of crisis. And this is a trait shared by both Arab monarchies and republics. Primer Ministers have long used as punching bags by Arab autocrats. They are very useful to deflect popular anger. A perfect scapegoat. Without real power to launch deep reforms that touch on vested interests, Prime Ministers face an impossible mission: to manage efficiently corrupt States based on unsustainable economic arrangements. And therefore, they are bound to fail after a few months.

One wonders why a top technocrat accept an offer like this. It could be out of a sense of duty towards the autocrat or the Nation. Or maybe they are driven by vanity and self-deception. Whatever the reason in Beblawi’s case, at least the interim president, Adly Mansur, expressed his “gratitude” to him. It is well deserved, since he has been a perfect “punching bag”. Who is next for the job?

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