Egypt’s military government dissolved the country’s Parliament, suspended its constitution Sunday and ordered banks closed for the next two days after the head of the National Bank resigned amid new protests and a strike by the bank’s workers. Egyptians were told the military would be in charge for six months or until elections can be held.
The move to close the banks is seen by many economists and political analysts around the world as a wise one, indicative of the general tone the military will set for the next six months. By closing the banks, the financial community will have a breathing spell, while protesters will have time to regain their composure and allow the system to come back to a normal state of affairs.
A committee will be appointed by The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to propose changes to the Constitution, later to be submitted to voters. With the power to issue new laws during the transition period, the council will essentially be tasked with the crafting of new legislation to establish new systems, now that former President Hosni Mubarak is no longer in power.
Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, said on a Sunday talk show that the military leadership have made the restoration of security and revival of the economy their highest priorities.
Tarek Amer, Chairman of the National Bank of Egypt, informed employees via e-mail of his resignation Sunday.
Two of Amer’s deputies, as well as the human resources director also resigned. Sunday evening, state television announced that all banks would be closed until Wednesday. The National Bank of Egypt acts, just as the US Federal Reserve Banks, in the role of a clearinghouse. If the National Bank is in turmoil, other banks cannot process transactions properly, making it essential to shut all banks.
With the nation’s economy frozen during the protest, and tourism down to nothing, leaders have asked employees to consider the best interests of Egypt’s economy, and their fellow citizens and to help support the economy.
Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, said Sunday that the new government has made restoring security and reviving commerce its top priorities.
Bank employees protested that Mubarak and his family had placed persons allied to them in positions of power at the bank with excessive salaries. Workers took turns Sunday, alternating between demonstrating and working, to keep the bank functioning through the day Sunday.
Reports of protests at branches of the Bank of Alexandria and the Bank of Egypt were made as well.
The suspension of the Constitution is a common practice in times of trouble, but the military council has not taken any drastic steps to stop or break up protests which appear to be spontaneous in some areas. This indicates a willingness to work with the people to establish rule of law without violent or extreme action.