Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak fired the government he inherited from his slain predecessor today and promoted First Deputy Premier Fuad Mohieddin to the post of prime minister, which Mubarak had held in addition to the presidency.
Mohieddin, 56, said he would name a new Cabinet by Monday. He is expected to make major changes, primarily among those responsible for economic matters, with the deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Abdel Razak Abdel Meguid, the most prominent victim.
Whether or not Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali remains in the Cabinet, no change is expected in Egypt's foreign policy of commitment to the U.S.-sponsored Camp David accords and the peace treaty with Israel.
There has been growing pressure on Mubarak recently to make changes in the Cabinet. In an interview published yesterday in the semiofficial daily Al Ahram, he said that "if there is call for change, then I must make changes."
A Cabinet shakeup had been expected almost from the time president Anwar Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6. But Mubarak at first delayed taking any action and reappointed the Sadat Cabinet primarily, it was believed at the time, to help give the impression of continuity and stability.
Mohieddin, a former physician who has served as deputy prime minister since May 1980, said Mubarak had named a separate prime minister because he wanted to devote all his time to presidential duties.
Most Egpytian analysts expect Abdel Meguid to be the major victim of the Cabinet shuffle. He has been widely criticized both in the local press and by foreign investors and bankers for making numerous unexpected changes in the country's financial regulations.
More recently, he was named in the trial of a member of parliament, Rashad Osman, who was convicted of corruption. Osman said Abdel Meguid had returned to him $6 million in customs duties after lower level officials had refused to do so.
Following this disclosure in the local press earlier this week, there was widespread speculation that Abdel Meguid might resign or go on leave, pending an investigation into the charges against him.
So far, however, the economics minister has done neither, but he has reportedly turned over all the relevant documentation to the president.
Mohieddin said the names of those ministers mentioned in the Osman corruption trial had been discussed during his meeting today with Mubarak, but he refused to say whether Abdel Meguid or the other official, the minister of state for parliament-Army affairs, Helmi Abdel Akher, would go on trial or face other disciplinary measures.
In any case, Abdel Meguid seems almost certain to be replaced, particularly since Mubarak has promised to crack down on the corruption that had become widespread under Sadat as well as to initiate major changes in the economic field.
The new president has charged that Egypt's upper class was the main beneficiary of Sadat's "open door" policy which liberalized the economy and led to a flood of consumer goods imports. Mubarak has promised to reorient foreign and local private capital toward more productive investment serving the lower classes and the revival of the economy generally.
While there is now much debate about what measures ought to be taken to achieve this goal, nothing has been announced so far. This will probably be one of the first tasks undertaken by the new government now being formed.