In a statement at the opening meeting of the Egyptian parliament's third session on Monday morning, house speaker Ali Abdel-Aal made an announcement warning against defamation of the legislative body.
"I have a message to all those [MPs] who intend to defame the image of parliament," said Abdel-Aal, adding that he "would like to remind them that this parliament has proved immune to all previous defamation campaigns, and that it was able to discipline violators and wrongdoers, and inflict tough penalties on them."
Abdel-Aal stressed that parliament, the House of Representatives, will continue implementing the policy of tough discipline. "Parliament will be very keen to discipline offenders in a very forceful way and will aim to inflict penalties on all those who want to disparage parliament or violate its rules," said the speaker.
A leftist group of MPs known as the "25-30" bloc has lately been critical of Abdel-Aal. Haitham El-Hariri, a particularly vocal MP, accused Abdel-Aal of violating the constitution and parliament's internal bylaws, and suggested that he is acting in a dictatorial way.
Abdel-Al responded by referring El-Hariri to the ethics committee, insisting that he will never tolerate an impudent MP. Abdel-Aal has also gotten in verbal disputes with other MPs, inlcuding Emad Gad and Samir Ghattas.
The speaker said it is deplorable that defamation campaigns also come from the media and some of the country's constitutional institutions. "To both I say the hour of judgment has come and it will be very soon - in the coming few weeks," he said.
According to Abdel-Aal, "freedom should not mean chaos or be viewed as an absolute right, which some may like to exercise at the expense of state's interest and the freedom of others."
"This is another message I want to convey to the media and all state institutions because we all should respect the constitution, laws and regulations," said Abdel-Aal.
Abdel-Aal also announced that parliament's plenary meetings will be held at 11 AM instead of 4 PM every day.
"As there will be no committee meetings in the morning any longer, I announce that plenary meetings will be held on 11 AM every day and that all MPs should respect this rule," he said. "I also urge MPs to respect the constitution and internal bylaws, and exercise supervisory tools wisely and carefully," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "we are here to guide the government, help secure stability and live up to challenges."
Prime Minister Calls for Unity, Continued Progress
Earlier on Monday Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told MPs in a plenary session that the coming stage of Egypt's history is crucial and requires close coordination between the government and parliament.
"In addition to the fact that Egypt is still in a state of ferocious war against terrorist groups, the government aims to raise national economic growth rates and address the country's deep-rooted structural imbalances which were left in place without confrontation for decades," said Ismail.
Addressing MPs, Ismail said his government's recent economic reform stage saw a successful implementation of planned reforms, which he had delivered before parliament in March 2016.
"The implementation of this programme won the praise of big international institutions. This would not have been possible without the cooperation of parliament, which passed a number of very important laws on investment and facilitating the issuing of licences related to industrial buildings," said Ismail.
Ismail argued that Egypt will not be able to move forward on the road of economic reform without achieving greater national stability and fighting runaway population growth. "While we are still in a state of war against terrorism, we aim at the same time to slow down population growth which has reached an unprecedented level that could soon exlplode and leave no surplus for future generations," said Ismail.
Ahead of Ismail's speech, the government sent each MP a detailed report entitled "Egypt in Three Years." The report covers progress in the period between July 2014 - when President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi took office - and June 2017.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan told MPs that the report recounts how Egypt was able to surmount some of the most challenging problems of the last few years, including chronic power cuts, lack of foreign investment, and low tourist traffic.
"The report shows how life has changed in the last three years, not to mention it lists all types of projects which are currently being implemented in various governorates," said Marawan.
The MPs will meet Monday evening to elect officers for the House's 25 committees. The results will be announced in a plenary meeting on Tuesday.