The Egyptian parliament is likely to declare it has lost confidence in the government of Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri via a formal vote, Muslim Brotherhood leaders said on Thursday – a move that will add to pressure on the ruling military council to appoint a cabinet led by the group.
Emboldened by its success in parliamentary elections, the once-banned Brotherhood has become more critical of the El-Ganzouri cabinet, which is set to govern until the end of June according to a timetable drawn up by the ruling generals.
A successful vote of no-confidence in the government would have no legal force, as parliament does not have the power to dismiss a prime minister under Egypt's existing system of government. But it would carry significant political weight.
It could also complicate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a $3.2 billion loan the El-Ganzouri government is seeking to stave off a looming financial crisis after more than a year of political and economic turmoil.
Senior Muslim Brotherhood MP Essam El-Erian indicated that parliament would reject a policy statement presented by El-Ganzouri to the chamber in the near future. "There is a move towards rejecting the government statement," El-Erian said in a brief phone interview.
"The military should appoint a new government and should appoint the government that obtained the majority," he told Reuters.
He added that the government statement would be discussed in parliament within the next two weeks. Asked when a vote of no-confidence would happen, he added: "The withdrawal of confidence might happen in the same session, or before it, or after it."
On its front page, a newspaper run by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party ran a headline declaring: "The El-Ganzouri government is taking its final breaths."
Brotherhood leaders have in recent weeks repeatedly called for a coalition reflecting the make-up of the new parliament. The idea of a Brotherhood-led government was unimaginable just over a year ago when the group, founded in 1928, was still officially outlawed.
Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, described the policy statement of the El-Ganzouri government as unclear and devoid of new ideas. "It is expected that they [MPs] will withdraw confidence from it," he told Reuters.
Soccer stadium, NGO case draw criticism
The Brotherhood's criticism has focused on issues such as security lapses that contributed to a 1 February soccer stadium disaster in Port Said, Egypt's economic problems, and, most recently, the authorities' decision to lift a travel ban on US citizens charged in a probe into civil society groups.
With more than 43 per cent of the seats in parliament, the Brotherhood has also been critical of El-Ganzouri's plans for more foreign borrowing. The IMF wants to see broad support from Egyptian politicians for a government programme of economic reforms before it releases a loan to Egypt.
Under the existing constitution, parliament does not have the power to sack the government – the ruling military council is the only entity with the power to appoint a new cabinet.
The council, which assumed Hosni Mubarak's presidential powers on 11 February, 2011, is set to rule until the end of June, when it has said it will hand power to an elected president.
El-Erian said a vote of no-confidence from parliament should prompt either the sacking or resignation of El-Ganzouri's government.
Fayza Aboul-Naga, Egypt's minister for planning and international cooperation, on Wednesday reiterated the official position that the military council was the only body able to dismiss the government.
The Brotherhood's Ghozlan said: "This parliament is the representative of the people while neither the government nor the military council itself are elected. Therefore, they should submit to the will of the people."