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Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The first test for Egypt's new PM Madbouly

The government of newly-appointed Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly will deliver its policy statement to parliament next week

Gamal Essam El-Din , Friday 29 Jun 2018
Mustafa Madbouli
File Photo: Parliament Speaker Abdel-Aal and Madbouly (Photo: Ahram)
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The new government, sworn in on 14 June and led by Mostafa Madbouly, must submit a policy statement to parliament before the end of next week.

Article 126 of parliament’s internal bylaws requires a newly appointed prime minister to deliver a policy statement to the House of Representatives within 20 days of the formation of a cabinet.

“As the government was officially formed and sworn in on 14 June, this period will expire next Wednesday, or 4 July.”

“I will be consulting more with Speaker Abdel-Aal in the next few days to fix a date for the policy statement,” Madbouly told reporters after meeting with Abdel-Aal on 24 June.

Parliamentary spokesperson Salah Hassaballah told reporters on Saturday the government could not be expected to deliver a statement immediately since time was needed to prepare a detailed document that could then be debated by MPs.

“After the new prime minister delivers his policy statement a parliamentary committee will be formed to review and discuss the document.”

Hassaballah also insisted “once the policy statement is submitted, parliament’s 25 committees should meet to discuss and give comments on the document” adding “their remarks will form part of the comprehensive report which will be prepared by the ad hoc committee.

“We expect the new government to submit a statement outlining its policy across all sectors, addressing issues of major importance, particularly the economic reform programme.”

The statement will come after the new government had cut fuel subsidies by more than 50 per cent on 16 June, a move criticised by the 25-30 group, a bloc of left leaning MPs.

“This decision came just two days after the government was sworn in and suggests it was appointed mainly to implement the IMF’s orders,” said a statement issued by the 25-30 group on 23 June.

The group’s statement said “the implementation of IMF economic reform policies in Egypt will come at the expense of social justice.

“There is massive, bottled-up popular frustration at the government’s aggressive liberal policies which have included slashing subsidies on fuel, water and electricity.”

The leftist bloc urged President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to hold a national dialogue conference in an attempt to forge a consensus over an economic policy that differs from IMF prescriptions, and which “observes social justice and stops foreign borrowing”.

Abdel-Aal intervened on Saturday to prevent the bloc from taking the floor to deliver a statement on the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies.

“MPs can’t exercise supervision on the new government as long as it has not yet gained a vote of confidence in parliament,” said Abdel-Aal.

“This is a constitutional rule. Once this government has won a confidence vote MPs will be free to direct all kinds of questions. While parliament’s committees are busy discussing the government’s policy statement MPs will be also be authorised to summon cabinet ministers to question them on the policy.”

Article 146 of the constitution states that “if the new government’s policy statement gains the confidence of a majority of MPs the president shall name as prime minister the nominee of the political party or coalition that holds the most seats in parliament.

“If the government of such a prime minister fails to gain confidence, parliament will be considered dissolved and the president shall call for new parliamentary elections within 60 days.”

MP Mustafa Bakri expects the government led by Madbouly to win its confidence vote.

“MPs know that rejecting the cabinet’s policy statement or refusing to give it a vote of confidence will be very costly. It means parliament will be dissolved and a new one elected.”

“MPs will be keen to discuss the policy statement in detail and use all possible supervisory tools to ensure that the new government’s economic reform and austerity measures will not harm the poor or the needy,” said Bakri.

“It will be a tough test for a new and young prime minister who is basically a technocrat. Many MPs are worried tough economic policies will feed popular frustrations and want to make sure that the statement offers support to the poor and the needy.”

Several political parties have said confidence should be withheld if the policy statement fails to address social justice.

Al-Wafd Spokesperson Yasser Qoura said on Monday that “the statement should explain how the government will contain inflation and supervise the retail market.”

Tagammu Party Spokesperson Mohamed Farag said: “We do not want popular frustration to explode and so the policy statement should outline in detail what the new government will do so to prevent the poor and needy from being crushed by spiralling price hikes and sharp market fluctuations.” Parliament is expected to adjourn for its summer recess within two weeks.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 June 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Madbouli’s first test

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