As the House of Representatives completes its third month since its launch on 10 January 2016, an observational report issued Saturday measured the degree of public satisfaction with MPs’ performance, highlighting a decline in confidence in the parliament.
The March report is the fourth monthly report issued by an independent civil group operating under a campaign called “Rakeb Nakeb” (or “monitor an MP”). The main coordinator of the group, Mohamed Badr, defined it as “a tool to monitor the performance of MPs we have elected, and serve as a database for future elections”.
The report observed that people’s dissatisfaction with parliamentary performance increased from 36% in February to 41% in March.
“The approval rates have been going down since January and at such rates, the parliament could have zero popularity by the end of its first legislative term,” Rakeb Nakeb stated.
Reasons behind this decline included the increase of internal parliamentary conflicts reported in the media, amid public inaccessibility to the parliament’s sessions as a result of the latter’s ban on live broadcasting.
The report criticised the fact that the broadcast-ban was not even lifted for the session of 27 March, during which Prime Minister Sherif Ismail addressed the parliament with the cabinet’s programme over the next two years.
Shady Amin, acting coordinator of Rakeb Nakeb, further told Daily News Egypt on Sunday that the image reflected by the parliament in March was messy.
“To begin with, regarding the cabinet’s programme, the parliament was on holiday for more than two weeks before Ismail’s scheduled statement. Yet, it did not form its specialised internal committees to organise and distribute the work once they received the cabinet’s programme,” Amin stated.
“Instead, MPs spent their time in closed sessions with government representatives; which media then interpreted as MPs manipulation by the executive authority in an attempt to get its cabinet passed by the parliament,” Amin added.
To him, the media has had a significant impact on the public disapproval of parliament’s operations. Rakeb Nakeb has claimed to have limited access to parliamentary sessions, but confirmed it attended two sessions on 7 and 8 March, in addition to the critical session of 27 March.
The report also commented on MPs reactions to Ismail’s statement, which it described as “void of any clear vision and vague”. Rakeb Nakeb found parliamentary reaction substandard.
“We have heard some MPs talking in the media about ‘passing the cabinet as it is’, due to the lack of time to examine every part of the programme. Though that same member said the parliament could ask the government for some amendments,” Amin stated.
He explained that the constitutional procedure is to either accept or reject the programme as a whole, and not improve upon it to bring it up to standard. To do so would be manipulation of the core reason of the programme’s rejection,” he added.
Rakeb Nakeb’s March report additionally addressed the finances of the parliament, criticising the demands of some MPs to be exempted from taxes, and before that asking for raises and more allowances. The State Council tasked with reviewing the parliament’s draft bylaw, decided that such benefits were unconstitutional.
“We do not believe there any logic behind that. Those MPs are supposed to watch over every other state institution and they are supposed to provide role models. How can they seek financial immunity?” Amin commented.
In conclusion, Amin said the parliament contributed to furthering people’s confusion over the bases of its decisions, which he considers indicative of the degree of people’s trust in their MPs.
Badr explained to Daily News Egypt the methods of data collection adopted by the campaign, which is also supported by NGOs Al-Kada Centre for leadership skills and El-Haq Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, managed by Amin.
“Our work depends greatly on interaction with people on the streets, mostly those who cast their votes, we observe media reports and MPs statements, and confront them with received complaints to ensure their right to answer,” Badr said.
Badr added that the campaign was initiated by four young people based on the idea to provide voters with an assessment tool of MPs actions. The campaign provides an interactive map tool on its website for users to file their complaints directly according to their geographic locations and constituencies in which they voted.
During parliamentary elections, which took place over several phases from October to December 2015, it was observed that voters failed to differentiate between hundreds of candidates’ required to fill more than 500 parliamentary seats.
Back then, voters in several parts of Cairo and Giza told Daily News Egypt they lacked knowledge about candidates, and that in many instances they had either been told whom to vote for or that they had “heard good feedback about some of the candidates”.
Meanwhile, Rakeb Nakeb’s report does have a positive side: a virtual award to the “best” performing MP. Among them were MPs Mohamed Anwar Sadat, Talaat Al-Suwaidi and Sanaa Borghosh and others, while MP Ahmed Ali from the Free Egyptians Party was rated as ‘best’ by the report.
The parliament will make its final decision regarding the approval or dismissal of Ismail’s cabinet by the end of April, as it is granted it 30 days from the date of the prime minister’s statement, according to the constitution.