Egypt’s parliament renewed attacks against the government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli over three days this week.
On Sunday, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal slammed Minister of Justice Mohamed Hossam as one cabinet minister who passes pn problems to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
In a plenary meeting on Sunday, Abdel-Aal accused Hossam of doing nothing to improve services provided by public notary offices.
“Ordinary citizens and lawyers have repeatedly complained of extortion and bad services provided by public notary offices, but it seems that the government still refuses to take these complaints seriously,” Abdel-Aal said.
“I have phoned the minister of justice several times to bring his attention to this problem, but all of my efforts have been to no avail.
“Unless the government moves quickly to address this bad situation, I will allow an interpellation submitted against the minister of justice to be discussed in a plenary session,” Abdel-Aal said.
Abdel-Aal insisted that Hossam was just one of a number of cabinet ministers in Madbouli’s government who are fond of causing problems for Al-Sisi and the public.
“This government should live up to its responsibilities in line with the constitution, improve its performance, and stop passing on problems to the public and the president,” Abdel-Al said.
“Besides,” Abdel-Aal added, “since the government insists on ignoring answering questions directed by MPs, I can say that it is now high time for parliament to re-activate its supervisory roles, particularly interpellations.
“My message to the minister of parliamentary affairs and the minister of justice is that unless the government submits to parliament a new law regulating the performance of public notary offices within 15 days, I will move to use parliament’s supervisory tools to question this government,” Abdel-Aal said, insisting that “the new law should state that public notary offices will no longer be under the purview of the Ministry of Justice but will instead be affiliated to the Ministry of Planning and act as independent entities.
“If the government does not take this move within 15 days, I will ask the Legislative Affairs Committee to draft a law aimed at meeting these objectives,” Abdel-Aal said.
Abdel-Aal’s comments were in response to an “urgent statement” delivered by Alexandria’s MP Mohamed Abdel-Fattah on what he called the extortion that citizens face when dealing with public notary offices.
“Lawyers and citizens complain of extortion and maltreatment in these offices. The result is that 95 per cent of Egypt’s real estate wealth has not yet been officially registered,” Abdel-Aal said, also urging the government to reduce documentation fees to encourage citizens to register their private properties.
Abdel-Aal’s statements also came amid renewed reports that a cabinet reshuffle is imminent. Many MPs have told reporters in recent days that they know from inside sources that a cabinet reshuffle is near.
Other MPs, however, claim that a reshuffle is not in the cards, at least not before the end of the third World Youth Forum scheduled in Sharm El-Sheikh between 14 and 17 December.
On Monday, MPs singled out Supply Minister Ali Moselhi for criticism, accusing him of issuing non-political statements and directing insults at the Egyptian people.
MP Emad Mahrous revealed in a public rally in Menoufiya governorate last week Moselhi took the audience by surprise when he lamented that “even though citizens receive a lot of subsidies, they show dissatisfaction rather than express gratitude.
“This is a statement which largely lacks any common sense and is not the first time this minister makes an insulting remark against the people,” Mahrous said.
“For this reason I think it is high time for Moselhi to be dismissed from his post,” Mahrous said.
Moselhi’s decision in September to strip 1.8 million citizens of their ration cards caused heated controversy. President Al-Sisi and Prime Minister Madbouli intervened to contain the damage caused by Moselhi’s decision, assuring that the majority of citizens who filed appeals will be re-listed on ration and subsidy cards.
The supply minister also told a TV talk show in October that the majority of people who receive subsidised commodities should be stripped of their ration cards because they have high incomes.
In response, MPs described Moselhi’s comments as “disrespectful”, asking Al-Sisi to dismiss him.
Abdel-Aal said subsidised items that people receive are their right according to the constitution and relevant laws. “We reject any kind of insults which a state official may direct at citizens,” he said.
On Tuesday, Abdel-Aal attacked the government again, insisting that most cabinet ministers still ignore coming to parliament.
Abdel-Aal warned Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marwan that cabinet ministers should attend parliamentary sessions to answer MPs’ questions and respond to “urgent statements”.
“We face pressure from public opinion and should cabinet ministers choose not to show up in the next sessions, we will resort to directing interpellations at them. Then they will be forced to come,” Abdel-Aal said.
Abdel-Aal’s warning came after several MPs directed questions at Minister of Health Hala Zayed, accusing her of doing nothing to improve services provided by public hospitals and rural health units. MPs also complained that most hospitals suffer from a chronic shortage of doctors.
Giza governorate MP Amr Abul-Yazid said Zayed never visits public hospitals. “Please come to the hospital in Boulaq in Giza and see if you will receive any kind of medical treatment,” Abul-Yazid said.
Abdel-Aal deplored the fact that most Egyptian doctors choose to work in Arab Gulf countries because of low salaries at home.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.