During parliament’s opening procedural sitting on 12 January Speaker Hanafi Gibali urged MPs to keep a close watch on the government and examine all draft laws submitted to the House, writes Gamal Essam El-Din.
“Your supervision of the government’s performance is as important as your examination of draft laws,” said Gibali. “As MPs, you must engage in supervision that balances the public interest with achieving a separation among powers.”
Gibali argued that “Egypt is witnessing a spate of reforms and the House has a responsibility to ensure the reforms are implemented in a way that serves the public interest.”
Gibali, a former chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court (2018-2019), was elected House of Representatives speaker on 12 January, thanks to the support of the majority Mostaqbal Watan (the Nation’s Future) Party. Gibali won his own seat as a Mostaqbal Watan candidate. Gibali replaced Ali Abdel-Aal as speaker.
Gibali’s fellow party members Mohamed Abul-Enein and Ahmed Saadeddin were elected deputy speakers. Abul-Enein, the owner of Ceramica Cleopatra Group, won 412 votes. Ahmed Saadeddin, parliament's former secretary-general, secured 485.
Ashraf Rashad was elected as the majority party’s new leader. Rashad, formerly deputy chairman of Mostaqbal Watan, stood unopposed. He has vowed to use Mostaqbal Watan's majority to push for democratic and economic reform.
Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, the outgoing majority leader, was elected chairman of the Social Solidarity Committee.
Rashad, the chair of the outgoing parliament’s Sports and Youth Committee, said in a TV interview on Sunday that Mostaqbal Watan was keen to reinforce parliament’s supervisory powers.
“We want the new parliament to use all the tools at its disposal to supervise the government and urge citizens to send us proposals and remarks on the performance of the prime minister and cabinet,” said Rashad.
After winning the speaker and deputy speaker posts members of Mostaqbal Watan mobilised to secure leading posts of many of parliament’s 25 committees.
“The only committees we don’t head are Defence and National Security; Legislative and Constitutional Affairs; Media, Culture and Antiquities; African Affairs; Religious Affairs, Labour; Budget and Planning, and Industry,” said Rashad.
Political analyst Gamal Zahran says that having emerged as the leading parliamentary grouping Mostaqbal Watan will effectively control parliamentary business for the next five years: “After taking control of the two chambers – the House of Representatives and the Senate — the party is now the major political force in Egypt.”
Only two parliamentary committees will be headed by women. Doreya Sharafeddin, a former minister of culture and an appointed MP, was elected chairwoman of the Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, while Noura Ali, former president of the Federation of Tourism Chambers and a Mostaqbal Watan MP, now heads the Tourism and Civil Aviation Committee.
Zahran notes that the under-representation of women in terms of committee heads is at odds with the fact the new parliament includes 163 women female MPs. At 26 per cent of the total, it is the highest proportion in Egypt’s history.
Businessman Sherif Al-Gabali, a major fertiliser producer, was elected chairman of the African Affairs Committee. Businessman Moataz Mohamed Mahmoud, a construction magnate, heads the Industrial Committee. Ahmed Samir, deputy head of the Sixth of October Investors’ Association and a Mostaqbal Watan MP, retained his post as chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee.
“We can expect that MPs from the world of business will act to push forward privatisation and liberalisation policies,” says Zahran. “Some time down the line the liquidation of the Helwan-based Iron and Steel Company will become a point of contention between business and workers representatives in parliament.”
Zahran finds it telling that high-profile businessman Mohamed Abul-Enein, expected to head the Industrial Committee, was elected deputy speaker. “This will give Abul-Enein a stronger platform to present push business oriented economic laws and policies,” he says.
The influential Budget and Planning Committee is headed by appointed MP Fakhri Al-Fiki, a member of the board of the Central Bank of Egypt.
Al-Fiki, a former IMF advisor, has indicated the committee will soon discuss a number of significant draft laws.
“I have already received a message from Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli informing me that the government is intending to submit new legislation to parliament which must first pass through the Budget Committee,” said Al-Fiki.
The proposed laws will include Unified National Planning legislation, regulations pertaining to the Tahia Masr (Long Live Egypt) Fund, changes to Public Finance regulations and amendments to the Value Added Tax law.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.