19 - 25 August 1999
Issue No. 443
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Governor thrashes ruling partyBy Gamal Essam El-Din
Political and parliamentary circles were taken by surprise this week when Menufiya Governor Adli Hussein referred four provincial deputies, all members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), to prosecution authorities so that they may be investigated for alleged financial malpractices. For an investigation to open, the immunity of the four deputies will have to be dropped first. In the view of political observers, the governor's decision was a dramatic escalation in the two-year war between Hussein and the Menufiya deputies.
Topping the MPs' list is prominent businessman Mahmoud Abul-Nasr, who is currently the acting chairman of the People's Assembly Planning and Budget Committee. He was accused by Hussein of evading payment of more than LE5 million for four plots of land he was allotted in a development project called the Mubarak Industrial City in the town of Quesna. Hussein, who filed the complaint against Abul-Nasr with Socialist Prosecutor-General (SPG) Gaber Rihan, said that the action "is part of my war against wrongdoing and wrongdoers". Abul-Nasr, a member of the influential Egyptian Businessmen's Association, is chairman of a group of companies carrying out diverse activities ranging from tobacco to textile production.
Hussein decided next to refer influential MPs Taha Ghalwash and Helmi El-Rabie to the prosecutor-general so that they may be investigated also in connection with alleged financial malpractices.
The confrontation between Hussein and Ghalwash erupted almost a year ago when Ghalwash, then Menufiya Governorate's secretary-general, was sacked by Hussein. The governor accused Ghalwash of corruption and of attempting, through his close friendship with influential Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Kamal El-Shazli, to "impose his hegemony over the internal affairs of Menufiya".
Hussein even clashed with El-Shazli, who insisted that an important street in Al-Bagour, his hometown, be named after him. The governor, for his part, vowed that the name of the street, El-Gheish or "the army", would not be changed. Hussein accused Ghalwash, in cooperation with his colleague El-Rabie (NDP deputy for Menouf City), of illegally acquiring an 18-feddan agricultural plot of land. It was noted that Hussein's decision to have Ghalwash investigated was taken one day ahead of a meeting last week between Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri and provincial governors.
To the further dismay and fury of Menufiya's MPs, Hussein also decided to refer Fathi El-Bayyoumi, NDP deputy for Shebin Al-Kom (the governorate's "capital"), to the prosecutor-general to be investigated for alleged embezzlement and fraud. Moreover, Bayyoumi was accused of illegally selling land owned by the Community Development Society on which Al-Raheb village's youth centre is located.
Rumours are circulating in the People's Assembly that several requests have already been submitted by Justice Minister Farouk Seif El-Nasr and Prosecutor-General Maher Abdel-Wahid for stripping the four deputies of their immunity. Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour was also reported to have rejected several complaints in which the four deputies claimed that Hussein is involved in a war waged to defame the ruling party and the People's Assembly.
Businessman Abul-Nasr told Al-Ahram Weekly that he had no personal differences with the governor. "I do not know why he hastened to file a complaint against me with the SPG charging that I dodged payment. How can I pay when the governorate is involved in a dispute with the Agrarian Reform Authority over the ownership of the land allotted to me in Mubarak City?" asked Abul-Nasr.
For his part, El-Bayyoumi denied that he resorted to fraud to illegally sell a plot of land. "The land was sold by public auction five years ago," he said.
The open confrontation between Hussein and the Menufiya deputies had heated up in March when 10 deputies filed a complaint with the prosecutor-general, alleging that a children's care centre in Shebin Al-Kom was selling body parts of dead children under 13 to private hospitals. In reaction, Hussein described the NDP deputies' complaint as "a flagrant attempt to settle old scores". At the time, a meeting was about to be arranged in parliament to discuss the complaint, but was suddenly cancelled for no declared reasons. Most parliamentary insiders, however, agreed that El-Ganzouri, on whom Hussein reportedly depends for political support, intervened in person to cancel the meeting.
Ahead of the deputies' complaint, they reportedly asked El-Ganzouri to dismiss Hussein on the grounds that he had defected from the ranks of the ruling party, to which all provincial governors must belong.
Hussein retaliated by publishing a series of newspaper articles, all directed against the ruling party and its parliamentary representatives. In one of these articles, published by a weekly magazine, he described NDP officials as "pursuing their personal interests all the time and not bothering to revamp the party's ideology". In response, NDP Secretary-General Youssef Wali published an article in the same magazine, expressing sorrow "that the governor had not been able to appreciate the party's achievements".
The conflict between Hussein and the deputies drew mixed reaction from People's Assembly members. Independent MP Ahmed Taha said that El-Ganzouri believes that many NDP parliamentary representatives try to use city councils and municipalities to serve their interests at the expense of local development efforts. "This is why El-Ganzouri decided to assume the portfolio of local administration," said Taha. He believes that the Menufiya conflict, along with the issue of parliamentary immunity, will figure prominently in the assembly's debates in the next session. "For me, it is a power conflict between El-Ganzouri's government and the ruling party," Taha said.
Five and counting