Sunday,25 June, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)
Sunday,25 June, 2017
Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Parliament to refute media attacks

Regular press conferences will be convened to counter criticisms of the performance of MPs, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Osama Heikal, head of parliament’s Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, announced this week that press conferences will be held on a regular basis in order to counter media criticism of parliament.

“Some local media outlets claim parliament is not doing enough to improve the economic conditions of ordinary Egyptians and accuse MPs of failing to attend plenary sessions,” said Heikal. “To combat these false claims I have been instructed by the speaker to hold regular press conferences to highlight parliament’s achievements.”

On 10 May Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal accused local television channels and independent newspapers of trying to tarnish parliament’s image. “At the request of many MPs I have asked for regular press conferences to be held to highlight parliament’s achievements,” said Abdel-Aal.

During a press conference on Monday Heikal complained it was “completely unfair that some local media outlets have launched a ferocious campaign against the House”.

According to Heikal, since being elected in January 2016 parliament has been busy in translating the ideals of the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June into facts on the ground.

“Parliament passed 342 law decrees and 82 laws in its first legislative season and 85 laws since the second began in October 2016,” said Heikal. In the same period MPs discussed 1,103 information requests, directed 547 questions at cabinet ministers and reviewed 693 urgent statements. “Most of this supervisory activity covered issues that directly affect the daily life of millions of ordinary Egyptians, most notably inflation and unemployment.”

Heikal claimed parliament had played a significant role in exposing corruption in the government. “We forced the minister of supply to resign from office and successfully pressed for an investigation into graft at the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade,” said Heikal.

“There is still a month and half ahead until parliament’s second season ends on 30 June. Our ongoing agenda includes much new legislation. Laws dealing with the press and the media, the judiciary, criminal procedures, the National Election Commission and local councils all await discussion in the next month and half.”

Heikal refuted media claims that MPs were passing new legislation in a rush and without adequate debate.

“This is part of the hostile media campaign against us,” claimed Heikal. “Parliament is accused of not acting to tackle inflation which hit families hard when the government floated the Egyptian pound in November. Yet the truth is now the pound is stabilising against the US dollar prices are steadier. The cost of some things, such as sugar, has even begun to go down.”

Heikal, who is optimistic other prices will begin to fall by the end of the year, says the only real option parliament had was to press the government to give a 10 per cent bonus to government and public sector employees to help them cope with price increases in the wake of the devaluation of the pound. “While we remain keen the government keeps the budget deficit within bounds we insisted that state employees should not shoulder all the fall out from economic reform,” he said.

Heikal revealed parliament has not yet reached a decision on when MP-elect Amr Al-Shobaki should take his seat in the House.

In July 2016, the Court of Cassation ruled that Al-Shobaki should replace Ahmed Mortada Mansour who was initially declared the winner of the Agouza and Dokki district. After reviewing a recount of votes the court found Al-Shobaki had beaten Mansour by 301 votes.

“Experts affiliated with the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee are concerned the final court ruling contradicts with the House of Representatives’ internal bylaws,” said Heikal. “While the court ruled Al-Shobaki, and not Mansour, had won Giza governorate’s Agouza and Dokki district parliament’s internal by-laws state that if an MP loses his membership as a result of a court ruling a new by-election should be held.”

Heikal also said the new NGO law passed by parliament in November is likely to be redrafted. The law, which has not yet been ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, is currently being reviewed by the Social Solidarity Committee.

“The legislation, which regulates the work of NGOs, was heavily criticised by local and international human rights organisations which characterised the law as an attempt to erase civil society in Egypt”.

Heikal concluded Monday’s press conference by insisting MPs remained opposed to any form of reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organisation which continues to back and organise violent attacks against the state and the public. It has refused to take any steps towards reforming its radical religious agenda and MPs wholeheartedly reject any moves towards reconciling with the group.”

Heikal argued that though the 2014 constitution states in Article 241 that a transitional justice law be issued immediately to promote national reconciliation MPs would balk at passing such a law in case it resulted “in some form of reconciliation with the Brotherhood”.

“Society is opposed to reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, meaning parliament cannot accept any moves in that direction,” said Heikal.

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