A woman walks past a currency exchange office in Cairo. (AP)
Cairo, Dec. 27 (Reuters): An Islamist minister quit Egypt’s government today, the second cabinet resignation this week as President Mohamed Mursi tries to shore up his authority and gather support for unpopular austerity measures.
An economic crisis and a battle over a new Constitution have underlined bitter divisions between Mursi and his opponents and delayed a return to stability almost two years since a popular uprising.
Rivals accuse Mursi, who won Egypt’s first freely contested leadership election in June, of polarising society by foisting a divisive, Islamist-leaning constitution on the country and using the autocratic ways of his deposed predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
In a move that may preempt a planned reshuffle by Mursi, parliamentary affairs minister Mohamed Mahsoub announced he was quitting because he disagreed with the slow pace of reform.
“I have reached a clear conclusion that a lot of the policies and efforts contradict with my personal beliefs and I don't see them as representative of our people's aspirations,” he said in his resignation letter. Communications minister Hany Mahmoud quit earlier this week, citing his inability to adapt to the government’s “working culture”.
Earlier today, a Christian member of Egypt’s upper house of parliament, Nadia Henry, quit a day after the Islamist-dominated chamber took over legislative authority under the new Constitution.
The Constitution crafted by an Islamist-dominated Assembly is meant to be the cornerstone of a democratic and economically stable Egypt after decades of authoritarian rule. The Opposition says it does nothing to protect minorities.
Mursi says the Constitution and an upcoming vote to re-elect the lower house of parliament will help end squabbling among feuding politicians.
He and his Muslim Brotherhood allies say ordinary people are fed up with street protests that often turn violent and want the government to focus on urgent bread-and-butter issues.
The strife has cast doubt on the government’s ability to push through the spending cuts and tax hikes needed to secure a vital $4.8 billion IMF loan. The Egyptian pound tumbled to its weakest in almost eight years against the dollar this week.
The resignations this week come ahead of a promised cabinet reshuffle. Cabinet sources have told Reuters as many as eight cabinet members from second-tier ministries might go next week.
Mursi is also promising incentives aimed at making Egypt an attractive place to do business again.