File photo: Egypt's army-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri speaks during a parliament session in Cairo February 26, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
Parliament Speaker Saad El-Katatni on Sunday told the People's Assembly – the lower house of Egypt's parliament – that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had promised to resolve the political crisis between Egypt's parliament and government within 48 hours.
The crisis was first sparked by parliament's rejection on 24 April of the government's annual economic and political programme.
Following El-Katatni's announcement, parliamentarian El-Badry Farghaly called on the assembly to postpone all pending requests by MPs to question government ministers until after upcoming presidential elections slated for later this month.
El-Katatni said he had proposed to SCAF member Mamdouh Shahin the formation of a "caretaker government" to run the country's affairs until a president was elected. This, he said, would allow a stable new government to be in place before ministers were questioned.
El-Katatni went on to say that the military council would decide within 48 hours whether to sack the incumbent Cabinet or carry out a limited ministerial reshuffle. The move comes in response to a two-week crisis between Egypt's Islamist-led parliament and government that began on 24 April, when the former voted to reject the government's annual economic and political programme.
Egypt's official Middle East News Agency reported last week that El-Katatni had received a telephone call from SCAF head Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi informing him of an imminent cabinet reshuffle. International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abul-Naga, however, dismissed the report the following day.
According to last year's constitutional declaration (issued by SCAF in the wake of last year's revolution and approved via popular referendum), only the military council has the authority to withdraw confidence from the government. El-Katatni's statement on Monday came after an earlier meeting convened to discuss the government-parliament impasse, attended by El-Katatni, his two deputies and representatives of seven out of 23 political parties represented in parliament.
For weeks, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – which controls almost half of the seats in parliament – has been pressing for the dismissal of the El-Ganzouri government. On 29 April, El-Katatni announced the suspension of all scheduled sessions of the People's Assembly until 6 May to protest the government's continued existence.
More than 80 MPs signed a petition against El-Katatni's decision, which critics said was taken without having been put to a parliamentary vote.
The Salafist Nour Party, too, has voiced opposition to sacking the government and played down the severity of the conflict. On several occasions, Ashraf Thabet, deputy speaker of parliament and Nour Party MP, has dismissed notions of a political "crisis," saying that outstanding differences would be resolved "very shortly."
Meanwhile, conflicting reports have surfaced over whether Tantawi attended Sunday's meeting with MPs. While government daily Al-Ahram reported that Tantawi did in fact attend the meeting, firebrand MP Mustafa Bakry, however, who also attended the Sunday meeting, has reportedly said Tantawi was not in attendance.