According to parliamentary sources, a campaign aimed at withdrawing confidence from the incumbent government of Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri can be expected next week. The same sources add that various Egyptian political forces are coordinating their positions in hopes of sinking the government via parliamentary channels.
El-Ganzouri, the same sources note, utterly failed to win the confidence of Egyptian political parties in his last statement before parliament two weeks ago.
A more important question now, however, is what will happen next – especially since the Muslim Brotherhood last month declared its readiness to form a majority government. The group’s plan has been foiled, however, by last year’s constitutional declaration, which stated that Egypt has a presidential, not parliamentary, system – meaning that the parliamentary majority cannot form a government.
“We have a government without a majority and a majority without a government,” asserted Mohamed El-Beltagi, secretary-general of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
Egyptian Social Democratic Party MP Emad Gad told Ahram Online that Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was expected to amend the constitution on this issue so as to allow the parliamentary majority to form a government.
“This is important for the Brotherhood, which is keen to draw up a government – and I think this will happen,” said Gad. “Coordination between the Brotherhood and the SCAF is obvious on all matters, even the issue of foreign NGO funding. There was at least some coordination between the two on how to respond to Washington in the event that the latter blocked or reduced financial assistance to Egypt.”
Gad went on to note that Essam El-Erian, FJP MP and chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, had “linked the issue of US assistance to the Camp David peace treaty” with Israel.
Gad’s statements correspond to leaks by informed sources that El-Erian had received a telephone call from SCAF number-two Sami Anan, who had requested a meeting while the foreign affairs committee had been discussing the issue. Sources revealed this, however, before several indicted US nationals – accused of illegally operating in Egypt – departed the country last week, to the anger of political forces across the board.
A Brotherhood source confirmed that there had been coordination with the SCAF up until then, but added that neither the Brotherhood nor the FJP had had anything to do with what happened afterwards. The source further revealed that there had been numerous contacts between the SCAF and Brotherhood leaders aimed at coordinating their positions against unregistered foreign NGOs operating in the country.
On Wednesday, the Brotherhood’s Ahmed Fahmi, speaker of the Shura Council (the upper, consultative house of Egypt’s parliament), told the FJP’s newspaper that the El-Ganzouri government’s performance was "not commensurate with the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” going on to describe it as “weak and shaky.”
“Egypt has been plagued by numerous problems with this government at the helm,” Fahmi added, calling on El-Ganzouri's cabinet to resign in order to make way for “a strong, stable government.”
In statements to Ahram Online, Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan put it this way: “If the SCAF wanted to amend the constitution to allow the parliamentary majority to form a government, it would. The issue is in its hands.”
Ghozlan added that the incumbent government’s failures demanded the formation of a new one, despite the Brotherhood’s initial support for El-Ganzouri’s cabinet. “We initially accepted this government as a replacement for the [previous] cabinet of Essam Sharaf, believing that El-Ganzouri had considerable experience, especially given that the most pressing issues were security and the economy,” Ghozlan said.
“Today, however, we realise that the incumbent government is no different from its predecessor. No one was arrested for the massacres at Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Qasr Al-Aini under the Sharaf government, which insisted on blaming all the problems on a ‘third party’,” Ghozlan said. “We initially welcomed the El-Ganzouri government because security is considered a red line. We had thought the security situation would be brought under control [under El-Ganzouri], but it has only got worse. This is unacceptable.”
Ghozlan pointed to the 1 February Port Said football tragedy and last week’s flight from the country of indicted US nationals – the latter of which he described as a “violation of Egypt’s sovereignty” – as examples of the current government’s failures.
Ghozlan also pointed to “key disputes” with the current government over economic issues.
“El-Ganzouri insists on taking a loan from the World Bank, despite serious reservations about the debt this will incur to Egypt and the large sums that will be consequently deducted from the public’s income,” he said. “We believe that accepting this loan is unnecessary.”
“We’ve also asked the government to disclose budgets, especially that of the presidency – but it hasn’t,” he added. “There’s also an enormous budget for the police apparatus, close to LE20 billion – why is this so high?”
Ghozlan went on to vehemently deny recent suggestions by US Senator John McCain that the Brotherhood had played a role in last week’s release of indicted foreign NGO workers by Egyptian authorities.
“McCain’s statements to the US media about this issue were flagrant lies,” he said. “We don’t have a minister in the cabinet to intervene and our position on the matter has been made abundantly clear in parliament.”
Ghozlan added that he had supported International Cooperation Minister Fayza Aboul-Naga at the outset of Egypt’s post-revolution phase since she had expressed a “firm position” on the issue of foreign-funded civil-society organisations. But after the departure last week of the indicted foreign nationals from the country, he said, “modesty and dignity require El-Ganzouri and Aboul-Naga to resign.”
Ghozlan concluded by holding the SCAF “responsible for all of Egypt’s post-revolution misfortunes, including the issue of foreign funding.”
He added: “Even if the El-Ganzouri government stays in power and the constitution isn’t amended, there will be no choice but to wait until the current transitional phase is over – but this will come at the expense of the people and their elected representatives.”
Aboul-Naga, for her part, has stated that Egypt's parliament is not legally entitled to withdraw confidence from the current interim government. Nor, she has said, was it entitled to appoint a new government to take its place, according to the constitutional declaration issued last year by the SCAF.
"Those calling for the dismissal of the current government should read the constitutional declaration before making such claims," the minister told a press conference on Wednesday.
FJP MP Ahmed Abu Baraka, however, told Ahram Online that the constitutional declaration – issued shortly after Mubarak’s ouster – included a number of mechanisms by which confidence in the government might be revoked, including the option of not approving the state budget.
According to Abu Baraka, the Brotherhood aims to paralyse El-Ganzouri's government – by refusing to endorse any of its decisions, including the state budget – until it is forced to resign. "When appointing a new government, the SCAF will then have to bear in mind which political group controls the largest bloc in parliament – and that is the Brotherhood,” he said.
Abu Baraka stressed, however, that the group would not form a government composed exclusively of FJP members, but would rather forge partnerships with other political parties as well.