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Copt resigns from Egyptian Council

04 January 2013


Fraternal greetings: outside the presidential palace in Cairo on New Year's Eve, an Egyptian woman holds an improvised notice that reads: "My Christian siblings . . . Happy New Year"

Fraternal greetings: outside the presidential palace in Cairo on New Year's Eve, an Egyptian woman holds an improvised notice that reads: "My Christ...

THE resignation from Egypt's Shura Council, the upper house of its parliament, last week, of a Christian, Nadia Henry, who had been appointed by President Mohammed Morsi, was a further sign of the turmoil in the country's politics. While Egypt faces increasingly difficult economic conditions, alongside chronic political polarisation, two cabinet ministers have also resigned.

Ms Henry, a representative of the Coptic Evangelical Church of Egypt, was one of 90 people chosen by the President to sit in the 270-seat Shura Council, which has legislative authority until the election of a new parliament later this year. It received this authority under the new constitution.

Ms Henry said that she was initially honoured to be appointed to the Council, which is dominated by Islamists, because she believed that the appointees would be selected to ensure the fair representation of other sections of society. She subsequently discovered, however, that one third of the 90 people chosen were also Islamists. As a result, she decided that she could not be a representative of the people "under the domination of a single faction which controls 88 per cent of the seats and votes of the respected Shura Council - even though it is supposed to represent the full spectrum of Egyptian society".

The deputy head of the Coptic Evangelical Church, Dr Andrea Zaki, said that Ms Henry's decision was a personal one, and that a replacement would be nominated. A second church representative would remain in the Shura Council.

President Morsi is pressing ahead with his political programme, having secured the endorsement of 64 per cent of those who voted in the referendum. Turnout was only 33 per cent. But his opponents are keeping up their campaign against him, alleging that the vote was marred by fraud and other irregularities.

All this is happening against a background of worsening economic difficulties. While the President, in a speech last Saturday, sought to reassure the public that the economy was recovering, the evidence before Egyptians indicates otherwise. Unemployment is soaring and prices are rising, and there seems little hope of improvement in the near future: political upheavals and outbursts of violence are defying official efforts to portray the country as one that is settling down.

As income from Suez Canal fees are the only significant source of foreign revenue, Egypt faces economic disaster. Discussions with the IMF over a $4.8-billion loan will resume later this month. To qualify, however, the government will have to lift some of the subsidies on food and fuel, which it is reluctant to do.

President Morsi has been forced to accept the resignation of two cabinet ministers, one of them an Islamist. Both expressed frustration at the government's inability to tackle the problems of the economy.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badei, has called on Egyptians to "achieve internal reconciliation". But opposition groups are calling for a second revolution on 25 January, the anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

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