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Amid a Corruption Scandal, Egypt’s Cabinet Resigns

With Ibrahim Mehlab resigning and the arrest of Egypt's Minister of Agriculture, El Sisi appoints Sherif Ismail as Prime Minister.

Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehlab resigned Saturday, amid a corruption scandal that saw the resignation and arrest of Egypt's Agriculture Minister Salah Helal over damning allegations last week.

Following Mehleb’s resignation, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi appointed Sherif Ismail, who acted as Oil Minister in the outgoing cabinet of Ibrahim Mehlab, as the new Prime Minister. Ismail was also instructed to form a new cabinet within a week, according to a statement from the presidency.

Even though no official reason was given for the government's resignation, officials told Reuters that president Sisi had been unhappy with the performance of some of the ministries. Mahlab's cabinet was undergoing a series of public scandals in the past weeks, triggered by the arrest of Helal. Media reports last week suggested that other ministers could be replaced, although the cabinet had insisted Wednesday that there were no changes planned in the cabinet.

The new cabinet is being formed just a few months before the long-awaited parliamentary elections, aimed to restore a parliament that has been absent since 2012. According to the Egyptian constitution, the new cabinet will need to submit their programme to parliament for approval and, if a majority of MPs vote against it, a new prime minister will be nominated by the elected parliament.

Who is Sherif Ismail?

Ismail, a mechanican engineer by trade, had served as Deputy Minister of Petroleum between 2000 and 2005, and was appointed Oil Minister in July 2013, first under Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, and then under Ibrahim Mahlab.

During his tenure in 2014, the government raised fuel prices by up to 78% in order to cut fuel subsidies, as part of a governmental plan to reduce its budget deficit. Last August, his Ministry was witnessed Italy's Eni discovery of one of the largest gas finds ever in Egypt and in the Mediterranean, as the company unveiled reserves of up to 30 trillion cubic feet.

According to former Oil Minister Osama Kamal, Sisi’s decision to appoint Ismail comes at a time when Egypt needs to focus on economic reform, mainly steered through the energy sector. "Ismail was successful in managing a number of key issues, including repaying the government's overdues to the petroleum sector, satisfying local energy demand and managing new discoveries," he told Ahram Online.