INTERVIEW: Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, the head of the majority Support Egypt parliamentary bloc

Gamal Essam El-Din , Friday 19 Oct 2018

Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, head of the majority Support Egypt parliamentary bloc, tells Gamal Essam El-Din that parliament will pass a series of long awaited laws in its upcoming legislative season

Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi
Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, head of the majority Support Egypt parliamentary bloc

Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi began his political career as an elected member of the local council of the city of Tanta, the capital of the Nile-Delta governorate of Gharbiya.

After the 30 June Revolution, which led to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Al-Qasabi, who heads the Supreme Council of Sufi Orders, joined the Constituent Assembly which drafted Egypt’s new constitution.

In 2015, Al-Qasabi became an MP.

He was elected head of parliament’s Social Solidarity Committee, deputy chairman of the Future of Homeland party and played a leading role in drafting the new NGO law.

How do you see the upcoming session in legislative and supervisory terms?

MPs are obliged to review the implementation of the government’s 2018-19 policy statement. Subcommittees will be formed to follow up on the implementation policies which Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli outlined before parliament in June and gauge the extent to which the government takes on board the concerns expressed by MPs that those on limited incomes should not bear the brunt of the economic reform programme.

MPs also want to see how far the government promotes local industry, cuts imports and increases the total area of cultivated land. MPs are pushing the government to submit a quarterly progress report on the implementation of policies and for periodic meetings to be held with the prime minister to discuss important development.

We intend to exert stricter supervision of the government’s performance in the coming session, examining the performance of individual ministries alongside that of the government in general.

What about parliament’s legislative agenda?

We want to see the long delayed law regulating local councils passed, as well as legislation amending criminal procedures, landlord-tenant relationships and litigation of personal affairs.

Some laws are ready for discussion. The Local Councils Law will top parliament’s agenda and could be discussed as early as next week’s plenary meetings.

Landlord-tenant legislation and laws regulating personal status will need to be the subject of a national dialogue. The Social Solidarity Committee will hold hearings on personal affairs litigation.

Many members of the public have expressed concern over the impact of any legal changes. We don’t want to introduce legislation that will shake families and their children.

What about the NGO law which has been widely criticised in foreign circles?

Although it was passed by parliament in November 2016 and ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in May 2017, the NGO law has yet to be implemented. T

he drafting of its executive regulations still needs to be completed. We explained these facts to American Congress members we met in Washington during the summer of 2017. We also told them amendments to the law were drafted by MPs, not by the government, and targeted the funding terrorist organisations.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal also told US Congress members that the new NGO is not sacrosanct and can be changed…

Abdel-Aal said that once the executive regulations are finalised the new NGO law will go into effect. If it then emerged that it somehow placed obstacles in the way of the registration of new NGOs then it could be amended.

We were able to correct many misconceptions about the law, always stressing it supports the work of credible NGOs and targets only those organisations seeking to use foreign money to undermine the state.

What other issues are on the Social Solidarity Committee’s agenda?

In addition to reviewing personal affairs litigation we will review the way the Ministry of Social Solidarity supervises orphanages and rehabilitation centres.

We will also examine how prisoners are rehabilitated so they can integrate into society once they leave prison.

We want to assess government readiness to cope with the coming rainy season in vulnerable areas such as Alexandria, Hurghada, North Sinai and Suez.

We don’t want to see thousands of citizens evacuated from their homes due to heavy rain any more.

MPs have come in for a lot of criticism for failing in their supervisory duties…

The majority of MPs are keen to play their legislative and supervisory roles in a positive way. Since 2016 parliament has forced the government to change a number of policies and remove cabinet ministers who were not up to scratch.

We believe MPs and the government are in the same boat and should cooperate rather than engage in mudslinging. The country is still in a critical situation and this requires that MPs assume objective positions.

MPs affiliated with the leftist 25-30 group say the majority bloc and the speaker have turned parliament into little more than a rubber-stamp for the government…

The majority coalition welcomes any constructive criticism that could boost Egypt’s economic and political progress. My message to the 25-30 group is this: let us cooperate and discuss issues objectively, for the sake of the national interest.

But I would also stress the majority of MPs stand against any kind of extortion and will refuse to allow parliament to become a stage for the exchange of insults and unsubstantiated accusations.

The 25-30 group also claimed that parliamentary committee elections were manipulated by the majority coalition.

The elections were competitive and transparent. They received extensive media coverage. They took longer than usual because there was such stiff competition.

The chairman of the Culture Committee — former information minister Osama Heikal — won by just one vote, whereas in the past he had been elected unopposed.

The head of the Energy Committee Talaat Al-Sewidi faced fierce competition from two candidates. Many majority MPs lost their positions, and members from opposition parties were elected heads of committees.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 October, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Voice of the majority

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