Saturday,17 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1404, (2 - 8 August 2018)
Saturday,17 November, 2018
Issue 1404, (2 - 8 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Parliament adjourns amid mixed messages

Gamal Essam El-Din reports on the wrapping up of a parliamentary session that saw the passage of 197 laws

 

Parliament adjourns amid mixed messages
Parliament adjourns amid mixed messages

On 25 July the House of Representatives ended its third legislative season. Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs an official presidential decree reconvening parliament before the first Thursday of October was expected very soon.

Parliament’s third-term had come during one of the most “crucial” periods in Egypt’s political history, said Abdel-Aal, “during which measures which left a harsh economic impact on the lives of citizens were taken”.

“Although painful, the measures were necessary to help Egypt evade an unprecedented economic crisis.”

According to Abdel-Aal, MPs’ approval of harsh austerity measures had exposed parliament to hostile media campaigns “but thanks to coherence and solidarity among MPs, parliament was able to withstand these media attacks”.

Abdel-Aal reviewed a report on the achievements of parliament’s third legislative season over the nine months from October 2017 to July 2018.

“We passed 197 laws with 2,757 articles, the largest number of legislative articles Egypt has seen in a single session since parliamentary life began in 1866,” he said.

“The majority of laws passed in the first and second legislative seasons focused on security and anti-terror issues. During the third session the legislative agenda concentrated on improving Egypt’s economic performance.”

“We passed laws on building nuclear power stations, establishing a sovereign fund, developing Upper Egypt, protecting consumers and fighting monopolistic practices. We upgraded bidding procedures and fixed regulations dealing with bankruptcy and the capital market.”

“Other new laws addressed security concerns by setting up the Higher Council on Combating Terrorism and Extremism, sequestrating the assets of terrorist movements and fighting cybercrime.”

Abdel-Aal said a significant number of laws regulating the media and press, establishing the National Council for Women and setting up an Egyptian space authority were also passed.

On 25 July MPs gave a vote of confidence to the government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli after the government’s policy statement was delivered before parliament on 3 July.

“Parliament discussed the statement in detail to ensure the government could implement its ambitious programmes to kick-start the economy,” said Abdel-Aal.

Madbouli vowed his government would act to improve the living conditions of those on low incomes.

“Parliament forced the government to change several policies. Some cabinet ministers were removed from office upon the request of MPs and the annual increase in salaries of state employees was raised at the request of MPs.”

“Parliament used the supervisory tools at its disposal, directing information requests to ministers and compelling them to issue urgent statements in plenary sessions. A total of 385 information requests and 303 urgent statements were made.”

“Twenty plenary sessions were held on pressing issues, including environmental degradation, price hikes and the smuggling of Egyptian antiquities. MPs submitted 1,090 questions to cabinet ministers who answered them in either verbal or written form.”

In a press conference on 26 July Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan told reporters that of 197 pieces of legislation passed in parliament’s third session 191 were drafted and submitted by the government. The figure, he argued, showed the government was “keen to agree a common legislative agenda with MPs”.

“All cabinet ministers have been instructed to answer questions directed by MPs and attend parliamentary committees to discuss legislation and public issues face to face with MPs,” said Marawan.

Parliamentary Spokesman Salah Hassaballah told Al-Ahram Weekly that MPs from both the majority and opposition had discussed new laws in an objective way.

“They were also keen to exercise their supervisory powers without indulging in mud-slinging. MPs are aware Egypt is passing through difficult times which require cooperation rather than confrontation.”

Parliament adjourned its third session amid heated debates on the absence of any legislation capable of revivifying political life. Some MPs also criticised the government’s policy statement for failing to adequately protect those on limited incomes from skyrocketing inflation.

Independent MP Abdel-Hamid Kamal told the Weekly that “while the government was promising to do everything possible to help the poor it raised the price of natural gas by 50 per cent, hot on the heels of fuel, electricity and water price hikes”.

MP Ahmed Raslan complained that “political laws were absent from the parliamentary agenda” and “legislation regulating the performance and election of local councils was completely ignored for the second year.”

MP Sayed Abdel-Aal, head of the leftist Tagammu Party, was concerned “laws dealing with reform of religious discourse and the regulating of religious fatwas took a back seat in parliament this year.”

Leftist MPs said Abdel-Aal’s heavy-handed approach to parliamentary business had turned the House of Representatives into a rubber stamp and left most MPs unable to exercise their watchdog roles, particularly when it came to directing “interpellations” to cabinet ministers.

In response, Abdel-Aal said “interpellations were not on the agenda because most of those submitted lacked substantive documentation.”

Abdel-Aal also noted a number of MPs face investigation by parliament’s Ethics Committee and could be stripped of membership or face serious disciplinary action.

Alexandrian MP Haitham Al-Hariri is due to be investigated on Sunday.

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