Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak swore in his new cabinet Monday (January 31st) amid continued protests in Cairo and other cities calling for the president and his regime to step down.
Many ministers from the previous cabinet retained their positions. General Mahmud Wagdi, formerly the head of the criminal investigations department in Cairo was named interior minister, replacing Habib al-Adly. Protesters had demanded that Al-Adly be removed from his post.
Mubarak named Samir Radwan, a former senior economist at the International Labor Organisation, as finance minister. Radwan replaces Youssef Boutros-Ghali, according to a statement read on Egypt’s state-run television.
Mubarak also ordered his new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to maintain subsidies and tackle corruption.
"I stressed that subsidy provisions in their various forms must not be tampered with and that your government should challenge all forms of corruption," Mubarak said in a letter to Shafiq that was read on state television Sunday.
Mubarak also ordered Shafiq to oversee "more political reforms in the constitution and legislation through extensive dialogue with the parties thereby allowing wider participation".
The new ministerial appointments were rejected by thousands of protestors who flocked to Tahrir square on Monday demanding a "civilian government", rejecting Mubarak's choice of military leaders to replace some of the outgoing ministers.
Opposition leaders have also called for a "million-man march" on Tuesday and an open-ended general strike. The march will begin in Tahrir Square, site of the biggest protests over the past week, with demonstrators to demand Mubarak step down by the end of the week.
A group of opposition parties announced a "national coalition for change" comprising Mohamad ElBaradei's National Association for Change and the Wafd, Tagammu, Arab Nasserite and Democratic Front (DFP) parties.
"Membership in the coalition is open to all political parties. The goal is to prepare a new constitution for the country and work on dissolving the parliament which was dominated by the ruling National [Democratic] Party (NDP) through elections that judicial rulings indicated were not conducted fairly," Dr. Yahya al-Gamal, a constitutional expert and member of the Coalition for Change, told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Gamal said officials must respect the desires of the Egyptian people, expressed by "tens of thousands of young protestors who are demanding that the current regime give up power and are calling for real reforms that bring Egypt back to its distinguished standing in the international community".
House Speaker Fathi Surour announced Sunday that the People's Assembly will abide by judicial rulings regarding the 2010 legislative elections. NDP candidates swept the elections, amid accusations of impropriety by opposition candidates, many of whom boycotted the second round. Surour said in response to demands for dissolving parliament, the Supreme Court is conducting an investigation into the legitimacy of the last elections.
The coalition tasked ElBaradei with negotiating with the government to address the opposition's demands, said Dr. Usama al-Ghazali Harb, head of the DFP.
"ElBaradei is best suited for this task at this sensitive time because of his credibility and the respect he commands in and outside of Egypt".
ElBaradei called for Mubarak's resignation on Sunday, joining protestors in Tahrir Square.
"You are the owners of this revolution," ElBaradei said through a bullhorn. "You are the future."
The Muslim Brotherhood said it would not take a leadership role in the protests to reduce fears of an Islamist takeover of Egypt.
"We don’t want to harm this revolution," said Mohamed Mahdi Akef, a former leader of the Brotherhood.
Mubarak has taken "serious steps" to respond to the street demands, including forming a new cabinet and appointing a vice president, said Maged al-Shirbini, acting secretary general of the NDP.
Al-Shirbini called on young people to give the new cabinet time to undertake reforms they demanded during their protests.
"Nobody monopolises political life in Egypt," he told Al-Shorfa.
"The institutions outlive individuals, and the [NDP] respects the protests and the criticism being levelled against it and is responding in the interests of Egypt and the Egyptian people".
As protests enter their second week, the environment on many streets remains very tense. Incidents of theft, looting and trespassing on private property are rising. The appearance of so-called "baltagiyyah" (criminal elements), a group of outlaws who attack homes and terrorize citizens, has galvanized citizens.
Citizens formed community groups to resist them and to protect their property. While they were absent from the scene for days, police began to deploy on the streets to maintain peace and confront criminals.
Many Egyptians began stockpiling food as long lines formed outside bread shops. The shortage in the food supply was attributed to the reluctance of some companies to distribute their products for fear of assault.
In Alexandria, vegetables and fruits have disappeared completely in addition to flour and bread. Store owners have started to close their stores out of fear that they might be victims of looting.
In Cairo, gunshots were audible as members of the army pursued criminals. One of the more tense areas is Turrah, the town that houses the Turrah Prison, where clashes continue between the army and the families of the prisoners, who are reportedly trying to free their sons.
So far, Turrah is the only large prison where major escapes have not been reported.
Security inside several prisons has deteriorated in the past few days which is contributing to a sense of unease among citizens.
Police Brigadier General Mohsen Allam estimated that at least 25,000 prisoners escaped from Al-Fayyoum, Al-Qanater, Abu Zaabal and Al-Natroun prisons.
He told Al-Shorfa, "Dozens if not hundreds of detention rooms were emptied of prisoners by protestors, keeping in mind that many prisons house a large number of political prisoners, who are categorized as members of terrorist groups, especially the banned Muslim Brotherhood."
According to Allam, 33 people belonging to Islamist groups have escaped from Wadi al-Natroun prison alone.
He said some of the families are hiring outlaws to attack the prisons and free the prisoners.
Mohammed Habib, a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, told Al-Shorfa, "The 33 prisoners, who were at Wadi al-Natroun Prison, were not let not out of prison with the help of the [Muslim Brotherhood] group. They were helped by the families of the remaining prisoners who attacked the prison and freed everyone."
He called upon the Ministry of Interior and the army to address this issue so members of the group are not considered prison escapees who are fleeing justice.
A shutdown of Internet access presented logistical challenges to the protesters who relied on technology to coordinate movements and organise demonstrations.
Mohammad Wael, a university student and an activist who is also a member of the Al-Ghad Party told Al-Shorfa, "Shutting down the Internet and telephone lines has somehow influenced the protest movement, but it was agreed amongst the activists from the first days of the protest, in case there was going to be any interruption of communications, and in all governorates, to use land lines to communicate with specific centres, and to rely on foot messengers to carry any new information to the masses."
Wael said reliance upon mobile phones has returned once cell phone calls were restored.
Businesses complain that suspension of Internet service has damaged the Egyptian economy, especially after the continued closure of the Stock Exchange and the banks. Hussein Abdo, a manager of one of a financial brokerage firm told Al-Shorfa, "Losses are multiplying every minute the internet is shut down, especially for those who deal with international stock markets are cut off from the world and are unable to keep an eye on the purchase and sale orders as they occur."
Joe Assaf, an Egyptian civil servant, said she did not care about politics, but she was affected by the disruption of Internet service and decided to join the protests on the street "to express first, her rejection of the disruption, and secondly to occupy free time that resulted from shutting down the Internet service."
Government offices and many businesses remained closed Monday as did the schools.
Banks also remained closed in Egypt amidst fears that massive currency transfers out of the country could occur if they re-open. The government had $36 billion in foreign reserves at the close of December.
"The war chest is going to be depleted if this situation continues for several weeks rather than a few days," said John Sfakianakis, the head economist at the Saudi Fransi bank.
The ratings agency Moody's downgraded Egypt's economic outlook from stable to negative.
The Suez Canal is continuing to operate "normally", said Ahmed al-Manakhi, a member of the Suez Canal Authority’s board of directors.