Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1405, ( 9 - 15 August 2018)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1405, ( 9 - 15 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Oppositional discipline

Leftist MPs brace for disciplinary action, writes Gamal Essam El-Din


#Tantawi #Al-Hariri
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The 25-30 group of leftist MPs has issued a statement saying one of its members, Alexandrian MP Haitham Al-Hariri, is to be questioned by the House of Representatives’ Ethics Committee. The bloc said it would hold a press conference following the questioning to “reveal the facts” and show solidarity with Al-Hariri. The statement added that left-leaning MPs Ahmed Tantawi and Mohamed Abdel-Ghani had already been questioned by the Ethics Committee and are expected to face disciplinary action.

In a press conference on 31 July Parliamentary Spokesperson Salah Hassaballah confirmed that Al-Hariri and other leftist MPs could face disciplinary action.

Hassaballah told reporters that while Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal is keen the opposition should have a strong voice in parliament “he has repeatedly said Egypt needs an objective, rather than provocative or confrontational, opposition”.

Some MPs have accused Abdel-Aal of adopting a heavy-handed approach to parliamentary business and manipulating debates to defend the government. Abdel-Aal, in turn, accuses leftist MPs of “trying their best to promote misinformation about laws and block the passage of reformist legislation”.

On 17 July Abdel-Aal told parliament that a vote would be held to determine whether MPs found guilty of infringements of parliamentary by-laws by the Ethics Committee should be stripped of their membership of the House. In its 29 July statement the 25-30 group claimed “accusations levelled against MPs Al-Hariri, Tantawi and Abdel-Ghani are politically motivated.”

“These accusations are old and entirely unfounded. They date back to the group’s opposition to the agreement that led to Egypt ceding two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.”

“Now, each time one of our MPs voices opposition to a government policy the speaker threatens that he will be expelled from parliament.”

Hassaballah claims leftist MPs are seeking to impose their views on others.

“They are trying their best to impose their own position on parliament and public opinion in a provocative way,” said Hassaballah. “They insulted some majority bloc MPs, accusing them of treason because they approved an agreement which the leftist group opposed.”

“What I understand,” said Hassaballah, “is that the Ethics Committee has recommended that the these leftist MPs lose their membership. It is now up to the speaker to decide whether there should be a vote on this issue.”

The 25-30 group said on Saturday that “although the questioning of Al-Hariri this week was postponed the politically-motivated accusations against him remain pending.”

“The accusations will be resurrected at some later date to intimidate the group’s members from exercising any kind of opposition.”

“Article 112 of the constitution guarantees the right of MPs to express their views freely in parliament and they should not face questioning in this respect. Yet Speaker Abdel-Aal regularly threatens that the membership of MPs affiliated with the leftist 25-30 group will be revoked. The pro-government majority is doing its best to rid parliament of any kind of opposition.”

Ahmed Samih, a member of the Ethics Committee, told reporters on Saturday “the questioning of Al-Hariri was postponed for procedural reasons and a new date for questioning will be set soon.”

According to Samih, four complaints have been filed against Al-Hariri.

“MPs who filed the complaints say Al-Hariri insulted them while parliament was discussing the Egyptian-Saudi maritime borders agreement,” said Samih. “Mohamed Al-Sewidi, head of the Support Egypt majority coalition, further accuses Al-Hariri of using his Facebook account to incite people against MPs who voted in favour of the Egyptian-Saudi deal.”

Al-Ahram columnist Salah Montasser warned in an article last week that stripping leftist MPs of their seats would impact negatively on political life.

“I think parliament and its speaker should be as keen as possible to ensure the House includes a wide spectrum of opposition,” said Montasser. “Acting to remove opposition MPs will tarnish the reputation of parliament and of the ruling regime.”

Political analyst Amr Al-Chobaki says it is regrettable that the opposition faces threats from Abdel-Aal. “The speaker should be as neutral as possible. He should encourage the floor to be given to MPs from different political backgrounds.”

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