Parliamentary speaker slams govt ministers for no-show

Al Ahram Online, Wednesday 21 Mar 2012

El-Katatni threatens to withdraw confidence from El-Ganzouri government after two ministers fail to show up for parliamentary questioning

Parliamentary Speaker Saad El-Katatni slammed the government of Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri on Wednesday after two government ministers failed to show up for questioning by parliament.

"The parliament is elected by the people and is capable of withdrawing confidence from the government," El-Katatni declared. "The regulations that govern the council give it this authority. Parliament was elected by the people and therefore must retain the public's goodwill."

El-Katatni's statement came after the ministers of justice and petroleum failed to show up in the session, even though they had been notified earlier. Wednesday's parliamentary session was supposed to have featured a faceoff with the government over the latter's handling of several key issues.

However, the justice minister – who was expected to be questioned over the infamous "battle of the camel" which left 11 protesters dead during last year's uprising – and the petroleum minister – who was supposed be questioned over an ongoing fuel shortage – failed to attend.

The ministers' absence forced El-Katatni to adjourn the session and postpone scheduled questioning until next Wednesday.

Later in the session, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mohamed Attia turned up to apologise for the ministers' absence, saying the two had been unable to attend because the parliamentary session had coincided with a cabinet meeting scheduled for the same day.

The ministers' absence did not sit well with many MPs, who complained that the no-shows showed a lack of respect for parliament.

Hussein Ibrahim, MP for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, fumed that the incumbent government failed to understand that Egypt's current parliament was different Mubarak-era parliaments in which MPs were often left waiting for hours for ministers to arrive.

Essam Sultan, MP and vice-president of the Islamist Wasat Party, said that the government ministers had intentionally snubbed parliament in an effort to embarrass it.

Liberal MP Amr Hamzawy, for his part, stated that the public must understand that parliament has many urgent issues on its agenda that require immediate discussion. Hamzawy pointed out that the ministers' absence gave parliament the authority to withdraw confidence from the government.

The confrontation climaxed when Islamist MP Mohsen Rady requested that government officials be expelled from the session – a request that El-Katatni refused.                                                       

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