Questions loom over committee tasked with reviewing government program
 
 
Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal
 

A 50-member committee formed by Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal to review the government program presented by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail to Parliament on Sunday raised questions about the mechanisms through which the committee was formed.

The committee is tasked with reporting its findings on the program to Parliament within 10 days, to allow Parliament to make a final decision on the program within another 10 days. Article 146 of the Constitution grants the Egyptian parliament the right to withdraw confidence from the government based on the program the prime minister presents.

According to independent MP Haitham al-Hariry, the committee was formed based on mechanisms stipulated by imminent parliamentary bylaws, which haven’t been ratified yet, rather than the current bylaws.

“The new bylaws haven’t been ratified yet, but the article pertaining to reviewing the government program includes minor differences with the original article in the current bylaws,” Hariry told Mada Masr.

The legislative department in the State Council returned the draft bylaws to Parliament on Saturday, but Parliament is yet to ratify them, given the State Council’s notes on some of the articles that were deemed unconstitutional.

Over the past few days, media reports have suggested that Parliament would ratify its bylaws to coincide with the presentation of the government program, but the State Council’s notes pushed the process back, which prompted Abdel Aal to form the special committee to review the program.

Abdel Aal, who was the Support Egypt Coalition nominee for parliamentary speaker, announced the names of the 50-member committee, which included 28 members of the same coalition – which constitutes the majority of parliament – as well as six members appointed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with a number of independents and heads of parliamentary blocs.

As soon as the prime minister concluded his address on Sunday, Hariry said, the parliamentary speaker announced the formation of the committee, listing the members without explaining how they were selected.

“He responded to objections by suspending the session,” he said.

Independent MP Diaa Daoud, a member of the committee, told Mada Masr that he found out he was appointed to the committee through a phone call. “I haven’t read the government program, nor did I attend Sunday’s session,” he said.

Daoud said he is unaware of how the members were chosen.

Kamal Amer, another member of the committee, and head of the defense and national security committee, said he also doesn’t know the mechanism through which the committee was formed, but that he had expressed support for the government’s program from the beginning. 

Amer, also a member of the Support Egypt Coalition, lauded the government program, “especially in light of the challenges Egypt is facing and in light of its abilities and ambitions.”

“The program represents a productive effort that the government should be thanked for,” he said. “When it comes to implementing the program, the government and state are the implementation mechanisms in themselves, the parliament shouldn’t ask the government about things like this.”

The program is dubbed “Yes we can,” the slogan used by US president Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign.

Hariry explained that all the parliament’s committees have been formed without resorting to certain criteria, “so it is not unlikely for an MP to be a member in more than one committee.”

“From my own point of view, the government program should be discussed by the permanent parliament committees rather than a special committee,” Hariry said. “This would guarantee that all MPs in their different specializations would discuss the details and that it is not limited to a certain group.”

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Beesan Kassab 
 
 

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