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Egypt MPs move closer to vote of no confidence in Ganzouri's govt

Citing concerns over lacklustre government response to US encroachments over 'sovereignty', People's Assembly aims to put current cabinet to a vote of no confidence; calls for US aid to Egypt to be reviewed

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 11 Mar 2012
Egypt
Egypt's People's Assembly (Photo by: Reuters)
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The majority of deputies in the People's Assembly — Egypt's Islamist-dominated lower house of parliament — have given the thumbs up to putting the government of interim Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri to a vote of confidence.

The Assembly's decision on Sunday came in the wake of stormy debates on the lifting of a travel ban on Americans accused of illegal political activities in Egypt.

The Assembly also asked that "the person who gave the okay for the Americans to leave Egypt" be put to trial; declared its desire to refuse annual US assistance to Egypt, and asked the US government to release a number of Egyptian prisoners in the United States, notably Islamic cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.

Parliamentary Speaker Saad El-Katatni said: "We hope that members of the American Congress listen carefully to the decisions of the Egyptian parliament — the parliament of the revolution — and know quite well that the Egyptian people will never accept tinkering with the sovereignty of Egypt or that American assistance will be used to humiliate it."

Joining forces with El-Katatni, different deputies from different political currents voiced sharp criticism of the US, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and El-Ganzouri's government.

El-Ganzouri apologised for not attending the Assembly's session, opting to send the ministers for international cooperation, justice and civil aviation instead. Minister for International Cooperation Fayza Aboul-Naga criticised the Americans for allocating money to NGOs in Egypt without getting official permission from Egyptian authorities. She accused US organisations such as the National Democratic Institute of carrying out "illegal political activities." Aboul-Naga, however, said "the strategic relationship between Egypt and the US should continue because the two need each other."

Minister of Justice Adel Abdel-Hamid said: "Lifting the travel ban on the Americans is now a matter of investigation by the Supreme Council of Justice and once the results of this investigation are known the Assembly will be informed."

The deputies of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) attacked El-Ganzouri, accusing his government of showing no respect for the People's Assembly.

"This government is not a big difference from the governments of the former regime," said FJP spokesman Hussein Ibrahim, asking that the government be subject to a vote of confidence.

El-Katatni said: "The government's reaction to the issue is not adequate and I ask you to issue specific decisions and recommendations about this government."

Saad El-Hussein, an FJP MP and chairman of the Assembly's Budget and Planning Committee, said: "This government should leave office and we want new legislation aimed at strengthening the sovereignty of the judiciary vis-a-vis civil society organisations."

El-Badri Farghali, a leftist firebrand, said "Egypt should stop obtaining assistance from America because this is not assistance from America to Egypt but from Egypt to America, and we want to uncover the names of all those who were involved in receiving money from this assistance."

Abdel-Moneim El-Sawy, chairman of the Assembly's Culture Committee, asked the ruling SCAF to apologise officially to the Egyptian people for its role in lifting the travel ban on the Americans.

Mohamed El-Beltagi, an FJP MP, said the People's Assembly should begin putting the government to a no confidence vote, adding "that we want new governments free from the pressure of the ruling SCAF."

Amr Hamzawy, a liberal MP, asked for a new government to be formed, independent of any kind of pressure.

Mahmoud El-Khoderi, chairman of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said that "Prime Minister [El-Ganzouri] should come first to answer the Assembly's questions and pledge that the sovereignty of the judiciary will not be breached."

According to the Constitutional Declaration approved in a public referendum on 19 March 2011, SCAF has the supreme right of dismissing governments. 

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