CAIRO: When Egypt’s parliament passed a hard-fought civil service law last week, it was seen as a rare outbreak of resistance to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The final, amended draft made it harder to fire members of the country’s bloated bureaucracy, which Sisi has suggested should be trimmed down.
But such defiance has been an exception to what critics call the rubber-stamp role parliament has assumed since its election in 2015.
“The parliament spent most of its time approving legislation by the government in the form that the government wants,” said Ahmed al-Tantawi, a member of the “25-30” grouping of lawmakers that has opposed several bills.
Its election, following a referendum on the constitution and a presidential vote, was hailed by Sisi as the third milestone in a democratic roadmap after the military, led by Sisi himself, toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The 2014 constitution granted parliament extensive powers, including impeaching the president and a confidence vote on the prime minister.
It was an uneasy arrangement for Sisi, who has tolerated little dissent, saying the country needs to get back on its feet after years of unrest pummelled the economy.
As it turned out, he has been able to count on parliament’s support.
When a lawmaker inquired in late July about whether pensions were still going to retired military officers who assumed senior positions in industry and state institutions, parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal shouted him down.
“This talk is over,” Abdel Aal yelled at the parliamentarian, Mohamed Anwar Sadat, saying such mention of the military was inappropriate.
From the start, experts had warned the parliament’s structure would produce a weak and divided legislature.
The legislature is dominated by a coalition of pro-government individuals and parties while the main opposition, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, has been banned.
Many parliamentarians “believe that if you oppose the regime, then you oppose the state,” said Amr Hashem Rabie, a political researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
“The government got everything it wanted from the parliament,” Mohamed Zakareya Mohyeldin, an independent lawmaker, told AFP. “The majority of Support Egypt agrees on everything.”