Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1298, (2 - 8 June 2016)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1298, (2 - 8 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

A question of loyalty?

MPs have accused Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal of silencing criticism of government policies, reports
Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

MPs say Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal is attempting to turn the House of Representatives into a cheerleader for government policies.

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of parliament’s Human Rights Committee and head of the Reform and Development Party, told reporters that Abdel-Aal behaves more like a government official than the speaker of Egypt’s independent legislative authority.

“Abdel-Aal has taken the unprecedented step of warning MPs against criticizing the government on television channels,” said Haitham Al-Hariri, the Alexandrian MP who heads the 25-30 parliamentary bloc.

“He has also threatened that MPs who attend training sessions at independent research centres will be referred to the ethics committee. He acts like a headmaster rather than the speaker of parliament. He sees MPs as elementary school students who should obey his orders rather than elected deputies.”

“MPs have the right to express opinions on state policies in newspapers and on television screens,” argued independent Cairene MP Atef Makhaleef. “Speaker Abdel-Aal can discipline MPs in parliament but the constitution does not allow him to bar MPs from talking to the media.”

“Any of you who appear on television channels to attack the policies of the Central Bank of Egypt will be referred to the ethics committee,” Abdel-Aal told MPs in a plenary session on 22 May. “These attacks are detrimental to the national economy, for which reason I am instructing MPs not to discuss Egypt’s monetary policy on satellite television.”

Abdel-Aal went on to accuse “some research centres” of leading a concerted campaign to undermine parliament and other state institutions.

“These centres organize training courses for MPs and instruct them in ways to disrupt the legislative authority and undermine other state institutions,” claimed Abdel-Aal. “They are part of a foreign campaign against Egypt’s parliament.”

He continued, “MPs join training courses in these research centres without being in possession of adequate information about their poisonous intentions. While I do not doubt the patriotism of any MPs, they need to be aware these centres threaten national security by urging MPs to reject the government’s budget based on incorrect data.”

Abdel-Aal claimed to be in possession of “a complete dossier” of research centres that organise training course that seek to undermine national security.

“The House’s secretariat-general will announce a complete list of these centres in due time,” he said. In the meantime, parliament’s own training centre will provide MPs with all the courses necessary for them to analyse the budget. The secretariat-general says many MPs have already attended a two-day training workshop on the state budget.

“Leading economists like Osman Mohamed Osman, a former minister of planning, lectured many MPs on 25 and 26 May on how to conduct a critical review of the state budget and balance sheet,” according to a secretariat-general statement.

Abdel-Aal’s attack on what he termed “anti-Egypt research centres” provoked mixed reactions from MPs. Taher Abu Zeid, an independent MP and a former Minister of Sports, agreed with Abdel-Aal that some MPs have attended “well-paid” courses at some research centres which use “incorrect information and urge MPs to reject the state budget for political reasons”.

Abu Zeid added that Abdel-Al had told him “some foreign centres invite MPs to travel abroad and take courses that imperil Egypt’s national security”.

Salah Hassaballah, chairman of the Freedom Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly, “Some research centres exploit the fact that many MPs are new to parliament, offering them courses that are hostile to the government and state institutions.

“European parliamentary officials who have visited Egypt in recent months have also asked Abdel-Aal to allow MPs to receive training in European parliaments that would promote a radical liberal ideology, requests the speaker rejected.”

 In a television interview, Al-Hariri cast doubt on such accusations.

“Before the speaker begins to make accusations he should first identify these anti-Egypt centres and name the MPs who have received training in them,” he said. “The 25-30 group has already submitted an official request to Abdel-Aal asking him to disclose the names of the anti-Egypt centres and the MPs they have hosted.”

Several MPs, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Weekly that Abdel-Aal had Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) in his sights when he referred to disloyal research centres. The ACPSS organized courses for MPs in the Red Sea resort of Ain Al-Sokhna two weeks ago.

“Other centres, affiliated with the Egyptian Women’s Union, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and the Independent Centre for Parliamentary Consultancies were also targeted by speaker Abdel-Aal,” said one.

MPs say Abdel-Aal was furious that the lecturers on these courses included radical economists such as Abdel-Khaleq Farouk and revolutionary liberals like former deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaaeddin who have accused the government’s economic policies of bias against the poor.

The ACPSS’s parliamentary training courses also included lecturers from the London-based Global Partners Governance. “Training courses are an integral part of ACPSS’s activities and are designed solely to help new MPs interpret the budget,” Diaa Rashwan, the director of ACPSS, told reporters this week.

The ACPSS, he added, had invited some European economists to address MPs on monetary policy in the Red Sea resort of Ain Al-Sokhna.

“Some 25 MPs received training in Al-Sokhna. They attended lectures on how to read the budget and analyse budgetary items in an objective way. Abdel-Aal himself received training at the ACPSS before he became speaker.”


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