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Egypt s interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi has announced the resignation of his cabinet.
EPA Egypt's interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi has announced the resignation of his cabinet.

Egypt's military-installed government has resigned en masse in a surprise move ahead of a presidential poll likely to bring defence minister and army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power.

A limited reshuffle to allow Sisi to step down as defence minister and enter elections had been expected.

But the across-the-board resignations led by the increasingly unpopular prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi surprised even some in the cabinet.

Appointed in July after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Beblawi's government came under pressure to step aside amid a worsening economy and a spate of militant attacks and labour strikes.

The resignations might lead to a new cabinet without the baggage of Beblawi's government ahead of Sisi's expected run in the presidential election, due by mid-April.

Sisi, who emerged as the country's most popular political figure after ending Morsi's divisive one-year rule, has not yet announced his candidacy.

But aides say he has already decided to run and will make the announcement soon.

Before he can do so, the field marshal, who is the defence minister and first deputy prime minister in the outgoing cabinet, has to resign from the government and the army.

Beblawi defended the government's performance in an address announcing the resignations.

"The government assumed its responsibilities and duties ... the government did not spare any efforts to get Egypt out of a bad phase," he said.

"This is not the time for personal interests. The nation is above everybody."

Interim president Adly Mansour praised Beblawi for accepting the prime minister's responsibility at a "critical and difficult time following the glorious June 30th revolution".

Government spokesman Hany Saleh told AFP that Monday's decision was taken because there was a "feeling that new blood is needed".

The government's resignation came as Hamdeen Sabbahi, a prominent candidate for the election, told AFP he fears a return to autocracy in Egypt three years after its Arab Spring uprising.