Al-Ahram daily newspaper (AN): How do you evaluate the role the Support Egypt coalition [an alliance of over 400 pro-government MPs] plays in parliament?
Ali Abdel-Aal: I think the alliance is doing a good job. The members have a sense of patriotism and are aware of their responsibility and the challenges facing the country. The members are still lacking some traits, given that they are new to the legislature, that I hope they will develop in the future.
AN: What are the weaknesses of the parliament that you would like to overcome in the next legislative session?
AA: The delay of some sittings and the absence of some members are the two things that disrupt the work of parliament the most and result in it not performing its legislative tasks in time. Some bills cannot be ratified without the requisite quorum of lawmakers. Some lawmakers fail to show up due to other tasks they need to perform at different ministries. We plan to request the government set times for such things, other than those of the chamber's sessions.
AN: Some observers believe the parliament has trespassed on the judiciary by passing the judicial authority law, on judicial appointments to top courts. What do you think?
AA: The three authorities [the executive, legislative and judiciary] enjoy complete independence. Parliament monitors the government while enacting laws that are binding for all once issued, yet it is not in charge of the administration. The chamber performs one of the main elements of its power i.e. enacting law. Amendments made to the judicial authority law are at the heart of the work of the chamber. They do not undermine the independence or the functions of the judiciary. The amendments are purely organisational, regarding the selection of heads of those judicial bodies. We can compare the texts before and after the amendments to see whether judicial independence was undermined.
AN: What about the new criminal procedures law?
AA: The government is currently reviewing final amendments to the law, which will then be sent to the parliament. The chamber's legislative committee has already started holding sessions to discuss the draft bill, to save time until it is ready. In its last session, the parliament passed a bill introduced by ten members which made necessary amendments to the law.
AN: Some observers believe the parliament's approval of the International Monetary Fund loan is unconstitutional because it came after the deal with the fund was made. What do you think?
AA: The IMF deal is an economic reform programme, presented by the government to the fund to ask for financial facilitation to carry out the programme. As a contributor to the fund, Egypt is entitled like all other countries to borrow. If the deal is regarded an international argument, then--as prescribed by the constitution--it has to be sent to parliament for approval. If it is regarded as a loan, the executive authority, likewise, cannot obtain loans without approval from the legislative authority.
This means there is no violation of the constitution either way. There is no doubt though that ideally, the deal should have been sent to the parliament once signed without any delay. I believe this is what the government recognized later. We had no other choice given the current pressing economic conditions but to put in place an economic reform programme, rather than resort to high-interest borrowing that would push foreign debt up.
AN: The relationship between parliament and the media has been tense recently; why is that and does criticism of the chamber anger you?
AA: We support freedom of opinion and accept constructive criticism, yet with respect for the chamber's prestige and status. Egyptian citizens have the right to a professional media. Professionalism means addressing positives and negatives with the same enthusiasm and speed. We demand only objectivity, professionalism, and that the public interest is kept in mind.
AN: You previously talked about your plan to write your memoirs, which you said will make reference to organised conspiracies against parliament? What are they?
AA: There had been persistent attempts to prevent the formation of this parliament. When the parliament was elected, many plots were hatched to create a negative image of it in Egypt and abroad, and to distance it from the public. I have tried to rescue the parliament from such malicious attempts. I will reveal the magnitude of these plots and the challenges we faced to foil them when the time is right.
AN: How do you evaluate the government's performance?
AA: The government needs to accomplish a lot under very difficult conditions. The government seeks to serve the interests of citizens and satisfy them
amid tough economic conditions. The path to development is long.
AN: Does the government work to carry out parliament’s recommendations on all issues? Is there coordination between parliament and the government?
AA: The government seeks to carry out our recommendations within available appropriations and within the ratified general budget. We are striving to create a climate of cooperation and coordination between the chamber and the government. In fact, Minister of the House of Representatives Omar Marwan largely performs such a role.
AN: How do you see the disagreement between the government and parliament over the investment law? Do you expect the law to attract more investment?
AA: The main aim of the new investment law is to reduce stifling red tape, making business easier for investors and creating a “one-stop shop.” The disagreement over who issues the executive regulations for the new law was settled quickly afterwards, and it was agreed that the prime minister would do so. I expect the investment law to work out well under current Egypt’s Investment Minister Sahar Nasr.
AN: What is the role of the legislative authority in Egypt's fight against terrorism?
AA: Parliament plays a significant role in the fight against terrorism, mainly by enacting laws that guarantee prompt justice. We have ratified a number of laws in this regard, including amendments to the criminal procedures law, procedures of appeal before the Court of Cassation, the terrorist entities law, the terrorism law, as well as amendments to the emergency laws.
These laws will speed up the prosecution of those involved in terrorist crimes.