The People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's Parliament) on Thursday formally began the process of withdrawing confidence in the government of Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, in a parliamentary session wherein the majority of MPs rejected the government's February statement.
All members of Parliament, except for three, rejected the policy statement delivered by El-Ganzouri to the Assembly on 26 February
which included an assessment of the government’s performance over the last year and its plan for the year ahead. Nineteen parliamentary committees similarly announced their rejection of the government’s statement.
Thursday's session was the first of ten sessions that will be devoted to discussion of the government's statement.
In an address to the assembly, MP Hassan Ibrahim, majority leader and Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) member, accused the government of not having a clear policy and for failing to recover public assets pilfered by members of the former regime.
The People’s Assembly has already assigned a committee, headed by deputy council speaker MP Ashraf Thabet, to prepare a report on the government's annual policy statement.
The 110-page report was presented in Thursday’s session. It concluded that the El-Ganzouri government had failed to solve any of Egypt’s chronic problems – be they political, economic or security-related –despite earlier promises by the PM and his ministers.
Thursday's session had its share of dramatic moments, especially when FJP MP Ashraf Badreddin accused sitting ministers – who he declined to name – of stealing from "private funds," which are funds raised by state institutions through means other than custom duties or taxes.
“I have an official document, which includes names of specific ministers, who are getting millions from these funds,” Badreddin stated. The documents he presented to Parliamentary Speaker Saad El-Katatni, however, did not include a single minister's name, but rather those of officials in different ministries implicated in various corruption cases.
Ministers in attendance walked out of the session after being accused by Badreddin without evidence. After being criticised by the parliamentary speaker and several MPs, Badreddin apologised, after which the ministers returned to face criticism by MPs regarding government failures.
Wafd Party MP Mahmoud El-Sakka also caused an uproar in the assembly when he defended the embattled prime minister. "El-Ganzouri should not be held accountable for the crimes and mistakes of the Mubarak regime," El-Sakka declared before the assembly, forcing fellow members of his Wafd Party to assert that the veteran MP only represented himself and not the party.
The El-Ganzouri government's fate is only part of the ongoing dispute between the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Muslim Brotherhood, which has escalated over the past week, with both sides issuing statements against one another.
The Muslim Brotherhood's FJP has been demanding for several weeks that the parliamentary majority be allowed to form a government and that the SCAF dismiss the El-Ganzouri government. The military council, however, has publicly dismissed these demands.
In statements to the press, Saad Amara, member of the Brotherhood’s Shura Council, claimed that the SCAF had offered the Brotherhood a chance to form a government on the condition that the military council would appointment ten of its ministers, including those of defence, foreign affairs and the interior. Amara said the Brotherhood had refused the offer because it would lead to the creation of a "weak government."
Despite assertions this week by the Brotherhood and the FJP that the SCAF had threatened to dissolve Parliament if the latter insisted on the dismissal of El-Ganzouri's cabinet, El-Katatni denied that he had received any threats from SCAF head Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi regarding the dissolution of Parliament.
In Alexandria, meanwhile, the Brotherhood held a Thursday press conference during which it announced the launch of a campaign aimed at dismissing the El-Ganzouri government. According to leading Brotherhood member Hamdi Hassan, the campaign will include demonstrations and marches beginning on Thursday evening.
According to last year's constitutional declaration, only the SCAF – not Egypt's Parliament – enjoys the authority to withdraw confidence from the incumbent government.
The People's Assembly will convene again on Sunday, 1 April, to continue the necessary procedures for withdrawing confidence from the government.