Egypt: calls for more ’open’ political process amid tense security situation | | Mada Masr
Despite the continued security crackdown, several political actors and media figures made gestures toward the need for a more inclusive political landscape over the last two days in the wake of the September 20 protests.
Chief among them was Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, whose legislature faces a presidential directive to freeze its activities due to dissatisfaction with its performance, with the NSA being tapped to form a new roster of MPs from among regime loyalists.
In the opening session of the fifth and final parliamentary session on Tuesday, Abdel Aal announced that today’s session would aim to bring about “national cohesion,” while standing behind the political leadership, the Armed Forces and the Egyptian police.
Parliament, the speaker said, would not allow the country’s problems to be foisted onto the president.
Abdel Aal went on to extol the need to build up Egypt’s infrastructure, even going so far as to reference the gains made by Nazi Germany in developing a modern transportation system.
“Building countries in transitional periods requires harsh measures. It is the period in which institutions and infrastructure are built. No country progresses without infrastructure,” Abdel Aal said. “Hitler had his mistakes. What allowed him to expand eastward and westward was the existence of infrastructure, including the railroads that, to this day, allowed Germany to be among the top countries.”
Abdel Aal’s message was echoed by MP Mostafa Bakry, who criticized what he called media propaganda and urged Sisi to hold a national reconciliation session.
Bakry also called for the return of the “opposition” to the political and media spheres, warning against a repetition of the January 25 Revolution, which came about, in the MP’s opinion, as a result of ignoring the problems of the people.
In the increasingly politicized legislative body, Abdel Aal made a key appointment preventing the transfer of a close ally to Fayoum.
In Tuesday’s session, Abdel Aal appointed Mahmoud Fawzy as the Parliament’s secretary general, replacing Ahmed Saad Eddin who had served in the position for more than three years.
According to parliamentary procedure, an appointment of the secretary general is ratified by the Parliament’s bureau based on the nomination of the speaker of the legislature. The secretary general attends all parliamentary sessions, supervises all departments of the Parliament’s General Secretariat and is accountable to the speaker for the smooth functioning of the parliament’s operations.
Fawzy’s closeness to the speaker can be seen in comments Abdel Aal made at the close of Parliament’s fourth legislative session on July 15, where he praised a number of his advisors, most notably Fawzy.
“If you put the entire Parliament on one side of the scale and [Fawzy] on the other, his side would prevail. All of the legislation that has my fingerprints on it also has his. He has special skills outside of his legal ability. Due to his experience in the legislative committee of the State Council, he has political, linguistic and interpersonal skills and understands how laws are drafted.”
Abdel Aal also praised his other advisors, calling them a “strike force selected by the State Council,” the body which notably struck out against Sisi’s decision to transfer sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, in a move met with popular resentment and a protracted legal battle.
Prior to his selection as the new secretary general, Fawzy was set to become a member of the Fayoum Administrative Court at the beginning of the next judicial year. However, his new full-time post prevented the transfer.
Judicial sources from the State Council told Mada Masr that Fawzy had filed an appeal against the decision to transfer him from the Technical Inspection Department to the Fayoum Administrative Court. However, the source said that this appeal was denied.
Political figures were not the only ones to issue calls for greater political openness.
Al-Shorouk editor-in-chief Emad Eddin Hussein wrote of the “danger of the absence of politics” in his daily column on Monday, adding that he believes that “if there were legitimate civil political groups that were actually able to function, no foreign media company or fake social media accounts would have been able to create such an uproar after the protest of a few hundred people.”
For Hussein, the recent events are evidence that “citizens aspire to participate in a normal political process, within the framework of the law and Constitution, but they can’t find formal channels for that.”
Hussein placed the blame for the “death of politics” on former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, adding that the “current government” is responsible in so far as it does not allow political parties to “function normally.”
Speaking to the Egyptian Effendi TV show broadcast on Al-Qahera wal Nas channel, Akhbar al-Youm chief editor Yasser Rizk said more freedoms are necessary, “because the press and media can only bloom where there is freedom of opinion and expression.”
As for political life, Rizk said it was a “grave mistake” to eliminate all political factions that took part in the alliance – spearheaded by the National Salvation Front – that formed to defeat former President Mohamed Morsi’s 2012 constitutional declaration.
“It is required that the space for freedom of opinion and expression, which is the pillar for political reform, be expanded. Political reform is what the president is about to do in the coming period, I believe,” added Rizk.
Rizk was also critical of the arrest of leading political figures in the fledgling Alliance for Hope coalition in June.
The Coalition for Hope included MPs, political party leaders, youth and journalists who were looking to enter the political arena and prepare to run in the upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections.
Former Member of Parliament Zyad Elelaimy, journalist Hisham Fouad, Multiples Group investment firm founder Omar El-Shenety, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi’s campaign manager and journalist Hossam Moanis, Mostafa Abdel Moez Abdel Sattar, Independence Party supreme committee member Osama Abdel Aal Mohamed al-Aqbawy, Ahmed Abdel Galeel Hussein Ghoneim, and labor activist Hassan Mohamed Hussein Barbary have been held in remand detention since June, pending investigations before the State Security Prosecution.
Despite these calls, the Supreme Judiciary Council instructed the Supreme Media Regulatory Council (SMRC) to prohibit media coverage of cases under investigation without prior permission from the public prosecution or a relevant court.
The council announced the decision in a statement released on Monday, citing the need to curtail “fake news” being reported around the death of the child named Ganna, who was reported to have been killed and raped by her uncle, allegations which the prosecution found to be false.
Citing an official source in the SMRC, the official Middle East News Agency reported that the council intends to inform all media outlets that the decision by the Supreme Judicial Council must be followed.
Meanwhile, Gamal Shawky, the head of the complaints committee at the SMRC, said that the committee had identified 128 pages and channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that “incite violence, spread lies, fabricated stories and are connected to terrorist groups.” Shawky said he sent a report listing these pages to the council in order to refer them to the public prosecutor.