Member of parliament Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat said Sunday that the parliament’s management allows unjustified security interference with its work and pressures MPs to not criticise the government, among 20 points he listed as negative practices that need be reviewed in the parliament’s second year.
The comments of the former head of the parliament’s Human Rights Committee came in a statement shortly after the parliament referred him to investigation for allegedly leaking a draft law on non-governmental organisations to foreign embassies.
Al-Sadat’s statement addressed parliament speaker Ali Abdul Aal with whom he had had regular disputes during parliamentary sessions in the first legislative year.
“On the occasion of the second legislative year, I hope that these topics are included in the parliament’s agenda of discussions for performance improvement,” the statement began.
Al-Sadat claimed that various security bodies are allowed to interfere with the parliament’s work through contacting and advising counsellors of the parliament speaker’s office in matters that don’t necessarily concern security, which to an extent “threatens the independence of the parliament”.
Moreover, Al-Sadat criticised the fact that security approval is required for meetings between MPs and representatives of accredited embassies in Egypt or for attending conferences abroad, which according to him violates the internal parliamentary regulations.
“There are also groundless accusations against MPs of participating in forums organised by local centres or in conferences abroad with international institutions and organisations, which is the core of an MP’s job; there shouldn’t be mandates,” he stated.
In August, Al-Sadat was referred to the disciplinary committee along with 11 other MPs from the same committee for travelling to Geneva to attend an international rights conference.
Moreover, Al-Sadat accused the parliament’s administration of being predisposed to “pleasing the government” by minimising the role of MPs to monitor the executive power. He said that political bias governs the work of MPs, especially when dealing with their requests to question ministers.
Al-Sadat stated that there is difficulty in getting the summoning of ministers approved, and that the government is welcomed with a praising slant when presenting its policies. He added that MPs are directed to not criticise cabinet members and that there is an overall tendency to defend them.
In fact, the parliament approved in March the cabinet of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail previously formed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, despite many MPs being critical of the programme Ismail presented.
Meanwhile, the parliament has been acting as a body approving decrees and decisions by the executive power, including laws that caused public controversy such as the Civil Service Law and the Church Construction Law.
In general, Al-Sadat finds MPs to be often intimidated by the parliament speaker, threatened with disciplinary measures, granted permission to speak in an unbalanced way, and scared off when stating their opinions.
“MPs’ words are sometimes manipulated to give a different meaning, stirring anger among members towards the MP who spoke,” Al-Sadat claimed.
Al-Sadat was referring to a July parliamentary general session where MPs paid tribute to the Egyptian army. “When I asked the Defence Ministry representatives about whether a retired army officer who obtained a civil leading job should be entitled to a military pension, I was surprised to find that Abdul Aal insinuated I was insulting the military institution,” Al-Sadat said in an August interview with privately-owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm. Abdul Aal’s comment had stirred anger against Al-Sadat in the room.
Among other complaints Al-Sadat expressed was the parliament’s management of the Human Rights committee, which he believes has been excluded from examining important laws such as the Protest Law, the People with Special Needs Law, and the Church Construction Law.
Al-Sadat said the committee had been denied receiving visitors while other committees have been allowed to meet with politicians and experts relevant to their topics of discussion.
In conclusion, Al-Sadat said that the parliament is not giving enough attention to constitutional requirements, restricts social inclusion, and risks losing its credibility in the people’s eyes.
“These issues will make the parliament only a body on paper,” he said.
In response to those problems and after claiming to have reached a dead end, Al-Sadat previously threatened that the committee will freeze its activities due to the negligence of the parliamentary speaker to their demands.
Abdul Aal had said that he will allow the members of the committee to nominate themselves for Al-Sadat’s position, in case he halts activities. On 30 August, Al-Sadat resigned from his position as head of the Human Rights Committee.