Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Committee shake-up

The leading members of many parliamentary committees are expected to change, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

The House of Representatives, which adjourned for its summer recess on 6 September, is due to begin its second session on 4 October.

According to parliament’s internal bylaws, MPs meet at the beginning of each legislative season to elect the senior members of parliament’s 25 committees. Now the countdown for the new parliamentary session has begun, MPs are openly jockeying for committee posts. The pro-government parliamentary bloc “Support Egypt” has already announced it will field candidates for leading posts on the majority of parliamentary committees.

Parliament’s Human Rights Committee is expected to see a major shake-up. Its chairman, Head of the Reform and Development Party Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, resigned a week before the end of parliament’s first session.

Al-Sadat’s resignation came after speaker Ali Abdel-Aal joined a number of MPs in accusing him of seeking to promote Western agendas. Abdel-Aal announced on 30 August that a closed-door meeting would be held to investigate attempts to tarnish the image of Egypt in international parliamentary circles.

In a statement to reporters Al-Sadat said he had tendered his resignation “because of the lack of cooperation from parliament’s speaker, secretariat-general and the government in responding to memorandums submitted by the Human Rights Committee aimed at addressing complaints raised by citizens and “parliament’s failure to communicate with the outside world over implementing Egypt’s international commitments and defending its image abroad”.

Al-Sadat’s resignation left the 38-member committee divided into two camps. The first, led by the committee’s Deputy Head Mahmoud Makhaleef, accuses Al-Sadat of manipulating the committee to serve foreign agendas. The second, led by MP Margaret Azer, defends the committee’s former head.

“Human rights in Egypt have become a critical issue and this has had an impact on the committee,” Azer told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Some MPs view human rights as a purely domestic issue. Others, like Al-Sadat, believe there should be an active role for the committee on the international front to counter Western attacks against Egypt.”

Makhaleef says he intends to stand for the post of head of the Human Rights Committee. He may well be competing against other high-profile MPs, including Mortada Mansour, the controversial head of Zamalek Sporting Club, who has also expressed interest in standing.

“The election of Al-Sadat as chairman of this committee in parliament’s first session was a big mistake which we now need to correct,” Mortada told reporters.

Azer told the Weekly that she has no interest in chairing the committee but will put herself forward for re-election as deputy head.

Parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee is also likely to see a heated fight over senior posts. The committee’s failure to reach a decision over MP Ahmed Mortada Mansour’s membership of the house left committee members divided. One group, led by lawyer Alaa Abdel-Moneim, criticised the committee’s chairman Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa for his failure to implement a Cassation Court ruling invalidating Mansour’s parliamentary membership. A second group, led by the MP’s father Mortada Mansour, accuses the first camp of corruption. They have, charges Mansour, taken money to drop his son’s membership.

Abdel-Moneim, a leading member of the “Support Egypt” parliamentary bloc, this week said he is contemplating standing for the post of head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee. “Most members have become dissatisfied with the performance of the current chairman, Wafd Party member and lawyer Abu Shoqa,” claimed Abdel-Moneim.

Veteran MP and high-profile lawyer Kamal Ahmed may also stand. “I think the head of this committee should be an independent and forceful figure who can settle internal disputes in a firm way,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed was temporarily banned by the Ethics Committee from attending some sessions in the first legislative season when he hurled his shoe at MP and television presenter Tewfik Okasha after the latter dined with the Israeli ambassador.

Parliament’s three major blocs — Support Egypt, the Free Egyptians Party and the Wafd Party — all intend to field candidates for committee posts.

Support Egypt says it will hold a meeting next week to prepare a list of candidates. Sixteen members of the bloc were elected as heads of parliamentary committees in the first legislative season. This time rounds, says MP Abdel-Moneim, “we want to raise our quota of leading posts”.

Abdel-Moneim said the bloc is prioritising leading posts on the influential Defence and National Security, Human Rights, Media and Cultural Affairs and Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committees.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, is seeking to raise its number of committee posts from three to at least 10.The party’s parliamentary spokesman Ayman Abed warns against “the Support Egypt bloc sweeping leading positions on parliamentary committees”.

“If this happens we will be back to the days when a monolithic political bloc turned parliament into a rubber stamp institution. The Free Egyptians Party — with 65 seats — hopes to retain the three committees — African Affairs, Agriculture and Transport and Telecommunications – it currently heads, and win new posts on other committees, particularly those related to business and the economy.”

The Wafd Party, with 36 seats, also cautions against one political bloc monopolising parliamentary committees. The Wafd, whose MPs currently head the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs, Energy and Environment and the Local Administration Committees, announced this week that “the strong performance of Wafdist MPs in the first season will help their campaign to be re-elected in the new legislative session”.

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