Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Forging coalitions

Parliamentary battle lines are being drawn, with four coalitions of MPs likely to emerge, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Internal bylaws of the House of Representatives were passed in a plenary session on 8 March. The House’s Secretary-General Ahmed Saadeddin told reporters the 438 Article bylaws would be referred to the State Council on Monday for review, adding he hoped the process would be complete before the prime minister comes to parliament on 27 March to deliver the government’s policy statement.

“Let me be clear that if the State Council has any reservations about the bylaws its remarks remain advisory. Parliament has the right to accept or reject them,” said Saaeddin.

Article 97 of the draft bylaws stipulates that before being recognised parliamentary blocs must be supported a minimum of 25 per cent of MPs drawn from at least 15 governorates.

Bahaeddin Abu Shuka, a parliamentary appointee and chairman of the committee which took charge of drafting the bylaws, defended the stipulation in the face of criticism from MPs who demanded the figure be lowered to 20 per cent.

Rami Mohsen, manager of the National Centre for Parliamentary Consultancies, says the 25 per cent stipulation will result in political forces forming officially recognised parliamentary blocs. “The largest will be the Support Egypt Coalition, comprising around 270 MPs and largely supportive of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s political agenda,” said Mohsen.

Article 99 of the bylaws requires the heads of parliamentary coalitions to submit a complete list of MP members and the coalitions own governing regulations to the house’s internal bureau (the speaker and two deputies) before the bloc is officially recognised.

Leaders of Support Egypt announced last week that the coalition’s regulations have been already drafted. “We hope that our coalition will be the first to gain recognition in parliament,” said Taher Abu Zeid, a former minister of sports.

Abu Zeid also revealed that Support Egypt MPs had lobbied for the bar on officially recognition be set at 25 per cent of total MPs.

Support Egypt calls itself “a coalition in support of moderate liberal policies”, as opposed to the 25-30 coalition, largely composed of leftists, which strongly believes in the ideals of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June: social justice, greater political freedoms and the establishing of a functioning democracy.

The 25-30 coalition is led by director Khaled Youssef, members of the leftist Tagammu Party Sayed Abdel-Al and Khaled Shaaban, Nasserist MPs Haitham Al-Hariri and Mustafa Al-Guindi, and four MPs affiliated with Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

“Though few in number, members of the 25-30 coalition were able to rally most MPs behind their rejection of the government-drafted Civil Service law and in support of stripping independent MP Tawfik Okasha of parliamentary membership after he met with Israel’s ambassador to Egypt,” says Mohsen.

Mohsen believes leftists, Nasserists and nationalists can muster a 149 member parliamentary block that will emerge as the leading opposition grouping in Egypt’s new parliament.

A third parliamentary bloc, including independent MPs who support neither liberal nor leftist policies, could also be formed. “I think Mustafa Bakri, an independent MP who has not been included in the ranks of the Support Egypt coalition, is the one most capable of forming this third bloc,” says Mohsen.

Bakri told reporters last week that he is examining the possibility of forming a parliamentary bloc that has been tentatively named the Third Way. “It could become an umbrella for independent MPs who adhere to a centrist ideology,” said Bakri.

Mohsen believes a fourth bloc, led by the Free Egyptians Party (65 MPs) and the Wafd Party (36 MPs) could also take shape.

Leaders of the Free Egyptians Party say they are in regular contact with Al-Wafd to form a liberal coalition. Ayman Abed, spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party, told reporters that “we are trying our best with the Wafd because we espouse the same ideology and because we are unwilling to be part of the pro-government Support Egypt grouping”.

He, however, explained that “MPs will join coalitions so that they can be elected chairmen or deputy chairmen of parliament’s committees,” says Mohsen. “In this respect MPs will join the coalition or the bloc they consider most influential and therefore the most capable of helping them secure leading positions in parliament.”

“Other criteria will also affect MPs’ choice of parliamentary blocs. As the bylaws insist that parliamentary blocs have an internal charter, regulations and code of ethics, MPs can also base their choice on which bloc is closest to their political convictions, or gives them a margin of freedom to express their own views even if these differ with the bloc’s.”

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