Dissenting MPs register opposition to parliamentary suspension

Ahram Online, Sunday 29 Apr 2012

Dozens of MPs sign petition against El-Katatni's decision on Sunday to freeze parliamentary activity until 6 May

A general view of the Egyptian People's Assembly (Photo: Reuters)

Over 80 Egyptian MPs have signed a petition against Parliament Speaker Saad El-Katatni's decision on Sunday to suspend parliamentary activity -- effectively going on strike -- until 6 May to protest the El-Ganzouri government's continuance in power.

Petition signatories included Egyptian Bloc MP Mohamed Abu Hamed, liberal MP Amr Hamzawy, Hadara Party MP Mohamed El-Sawy and Egyptian Social Democratic Party MP Ziad Bahaa El-Din.

Bahaa El-Din complained the decision had been taken unilaterally by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party  (FJP), which holds almost half of the seats in parliament and of which El-Katatni is a leading member. Bahaa El-Din went on to point out that the decision had not been put to a vote by sitting MPs.

El-Katatni on Sunday abruptly announced the suspension of all scheduled sessions of the People's Assembly – the lower house of Egypt's parliament – until 6 May to protest the continuance in power of the government of Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri against the wishes of the parliamentary majority.

Following the decision, dozens of dissenting MPs refused to leave the chamber, asking media personnel from the Sout El-Shaab television channel – which broadcasts parliamentary sessions – to register their presence inside the chamber after the session had been adjourned.

Last month, El-Katatni called on the parliamentary committee tasked with evaluating the government's first official report -- delivered by El-Ganzouri to parliament on 26 February -- to refer its findings to the general body. The committee's report concluded that all 19 committees of the People's Assembly unanimously rejected El-Ganzouri's statement, citing a large "gap between the recommendations and visions of the MPs and what the government has offered."

On 24 April, the People's Assembly voted to reject the government's economic and political programme, stopping short, however, of taking any concrete steps towards withdrawing confidence from the Cabinet. According to last year's constitutional declaration, only the SCAF – not Egypt's Parliament – enjoys the authority to withdraw confidence from the incumbent government.

The El-Ganzouri government's fate is only part of the ongoing dispute between the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Muslim Brotherhood, which has escalated lately, with both sides issuing statements against one another. 

The Muslim Brotherhood's FJP has been demanding for several weeks that the parliamentary majority be allowed to form a government and that the SCAF dismiss the El-Ganzouri government. The military council, however, has publicly dismissed these demands.

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