Week in Brief – April 1, 2018 – April 7, 2018

04/10/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • Political parties ramped up their discussions regarding a massive overhaul of the party system that would consolidate all parties into only a few.
  • Comments from the local administration minister that dismissed concerns over his having ignored requests to address parliament sparked outrage in the House of Representatives, with some members calling for his immediate dismissal.
  • Representatives pondered the constitutional ramifications of President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi’s reelection and the impact it would entail on his cabinet; Egypt’s constitution states that any ministerial candidates must be approved by the House before assuming their position.

Notable Developments

Representatives Laud Sisi following Successful Reelection Bid:

Following the final announcement of vote tallies, prominent representatives and political organizations offered their congratulations to Sisi. Parliamentarians such as Arab Affairs Committee Chairman Saad al-Gamal and Defense Committee Chairman Kamal Amer applauded Sisi for his “triumphant endeavors” and wished him good fortune during the next four years of his presidency. Similarly, the Coalition in Support of Egypt and the Free Egyptians Party congratulated Sisi on his reelection, both of which participated in extensive campaigning initiatives prior to voting (for more, see TIMEP’s Special Briefing on this period). Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al expressed his gratitude to members of the armed forces for providing security and assistance at polling locations nationwide.

Political Parties Continue Consolidation Discussions:

Political party consolidation has been an ongoing source of debate in parliament, as representatives, mainly from the Coalition in Support of Egypt, previously asserted that the bloc, which currently comprises seven individual political parties and over 400 candidates, is in advanced discussions to consolidate into a single official party. Coalition Chairman Muhammad al-Suweidi toned down these claims, stating that the group is considering this transformation in order to fill the political vacuum in the House of Representatives. In related news, recently elected Wafd Party Chairman Bahaa Abu Shoqa expressed similar sentiments as Suweidi regarding consolidation, as Abu Shoqa expects two to four official organizations to form from the current multitude of political parties within the next week.

Arab Parliament Convenes in Egypt:

The House of Representatives hosted the 27th session of the Arab Parliament this week, as delegations from nations throughout the Arab world traveled to Egypt to participate in the meetings. Abdel ‘Al received Arab Parliament President Habib al-Maliki of Morocco in advance of Wednesday’s opening session of the Arab Parliament in Egypt. Sisi was also in attendance during the meeting, and he expressed his appreciation and support for the ongoing relations between the two countries.

During the session, Arab Affairs Committee Chairman Saad al-Gamal spoke on behalf of Abdel ‘Al regarding pressing security matters within the region. Gamal stressed the importance of political negotiations and diplomacy in achieving a solution to the conflict in Syria, while also criticizing Turkey, Iran, and Russia for holding a summit to resolve the situation but simultaneously excluding representatives from Syria in the discussions. He also requested  that the Arab Parliament open an investigation into the recent killing of Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces during Land Day demonstrations. At the conclusion of the body’s sessions, Abdel ‘Al assumed the presidency of the Arab Parliament for a one-year term following that of the current leader, Habib al-Maliki of Morocco. Abdel ‘Al expressed his gratitude to the delegates from various Arab nations to serve in this new position for the next year, while also calling for increased solidarity among members of the body to combat regional concerns in a united endeavor.

Local Administration Minister’s Comments Spark Outrage:

Local Administration Minister Abu Bakr al-Gindi received harsh criticism from several members of parliament for what they deemed to be inappropriate behavior and rhetoric for a ranking government official. Gindi dismissed claims that he ignored requests from representatives to speak during general sessions of parliament or in committee meetings, adding that these allegations were meaningless. Members of the House were outraged over Gindi’s comments, as some even called for his dismissal from his post for his behavior. Notable representatives including Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed and fellow committee member Muhammad al-Ghoul decried Gindi for failing to adhere to his responsibilities as a member of the cabinet, while simultaneously disrespecting his colleagues and Egyptians nationwide. Following several meetings with Gindi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marwan, Abdel ‘Al announced the conclusion of the conflict with Gindi, who apologized for his comments.

Representatives Ponder Cabinet Reshuffling:

Following the announcement of vote tallies for Sisi’s second term, representatives questioned the constitutional impact of his reelection on his cabinet, which mandates that any ministerial appointment must receive the approval of parliament before an individual assumes their position. In light of this situation, Parliamentary Spokesman Salah Hassiballah expressed the legislature’s dissatisfaction with some current members of the cabinet, though he affirmed that the two bodies maintain a strong and amenable working relationship. Anisa Essam Hassouna of the Foreign Affairs Committee echoed similar sentiments regarding a cabinet reshuffling, stating that Sisi ought to choose a female prime minister to indicate women’s growing role in Egyptian politics. Speaking on behalf of the Coalition in Support of Egypt, Hassiballah noted the bloc’s desire for five current ministers to be removed from their positions, though he refused to name specific individuals.

Parliament Creates a New Body to Combat Terrorism:

The House approved in principle the government’s draft Supreme Council for Countering Terrorism and Extremism Law. The legislation replaces the current national counter-terror body in an effort to mobilize state institutions to combat terrorism, trace funding for extremist groups, and reduce the causes of terrorism and its ramifications. The council will consist of the president and an additional 17 members comprising individuals from various government agencies and religious institutions, who will formulate a national strategy every five years designed to combat domestic and international terror. The bill will also establish coordination programs between neighboring countries and counterparts in the intelligence community in order to exchange pertinent information.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

Parliament approved in its entirety the draft law on Incentives for Science, Technology, and Innovation. The bill authorizes research bodies to partner with private companies to perform specialized research with the inclusion of financial incentives and tax breaks. The body previously approved it in principle on March 5.

Parliament approved an amendment to Article 46 of the Consumer Protection Law, which now permits the president to appoint the chairman of the respective authority to address consumer-related issues.

Parliament approved in principle the draft Real Estate in Urban Communities Law. The legislation mandates a time frame for the completion of development projects in urban areas in order to adhere to conform to local and national building standards.

Abdel ‘Al referred the State Budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year to the Budget Committee. Budget Committee Chairman Hussein Aissa confirmed that Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy will meet with the committee in the third week of April to discuss the official state budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year. Aissa also criticized the Health, Education, and Higher Education Ministries for not submitting a completed budget proposal.

The Religious Affairs Committee completed its discussions of the House of Fatwa Law and submitted it to the general body of parliament to vote upon it. The Religious Affairs Committee is near completion with its deliberations of the House of Ifta Law. Both pieces of legislation reorganize and modify operating procedures for the religious institutions.

The Local Administration Committee formed a subcommittee to discuss the Central Planning and Development Law and the Local Administration Law; the committee is expected to begin its deliberations in the coming days. The Local Administration Law amends the current structure of municipal rule by delegating greater authority to governors and local councils, while also providing additional national resources to support local government. Following the issuance of the Local Administration Law, Parliamentary Spokesman Salah Hassiballah said that Egypt is expected to hold elections for local councils in the first half of 2019.

The Central Planning and Development Law centralizes many projects concerning scientific research, innovation, and sustainable development through the national government.

In Session:

Following the decision not to remove the immunity of Representative Mortada Mansour, the House of Representatives refused to lift the immunity of Representative Alaa Abdel Moneim of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Representative Sayyid Abdel ‘Al of the Economic Affairs Committee, Representative Ahmed al-Sharqawi of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, and Representative Ahmed Badran of the Constitutional Affairs Committee. These four aforementioned members submitted a request to investigate Mansour for his alleged financial impropriety with the Zamalek Club, which prompted Mansour to submit requests to raise the immunity of the four representatives for what he deemed to be behavior attempting to defame Mansour.

Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed submitted a memorandum to Abdel ‘Al requesting that the government take legal action against the newspaper al-Masry al-Youm for publishing a story claiming that vote-buying in favor of Sisi occurred at polling centers .

Wafd Party Assistant Chairman Yasser Hassan resigned from his position following Bahaa Abu Shoqa’s victory as party chairman. Hassan stated that his resignation is customary and he would gladly resume his duties if offered the opportunity by Abu Shoqa.

In News and Statements:

Representative Badawi al-Nuweishi of the Local Administration Committee called for an amendment to the constitution to extend the president’s term to include two eight-year terms, though he has yet to submit a formal amendment. Nuweishi’s suggestion comes three days following the National Elections Authority’s announcement that Sisi was reelected.

Representative Saeed Taima said that the delay in debating the Uber and Careem laws was justified, as the law requires the input of Egypt’s national security representatives, and the representatives did not show up.

Budget Committee Chairman Hussein Aissa denied that he is obligated to disclose the salaries of government officials, stating that the payroll is an internal issue that does not need to be discussed publicly.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan affirmed that the committee has been continuously working with Miriam Mustafa’s family following the Egyptian student’s death in the United Kingdom and the delegation visit to the U.K. Radwan noted that autopsy procedures in the U.K. tend to last seven to 10 weeks before a body can be buried, which makes the possibility of intervening in the process difficult for the committee.

During a luncheon Tuesday, Abdel ‘Al welcomed a delegation from Iraq that included members of the Iraqi parliament and its speaker, to whom Abdel ‘Al affirmed the strong bilateral relations between Egypt and Iraq.

The Tagammu Party organized a rally on behalf of the Palestinian cause in which the party formally condemned the recent attack on Palestinian protesters by Israeli armed forces.

Parliamentary Spokesman Salah Hassiballah congratulated Pope Tawadros on Sunday’s Easter celebration.

Representative Ahmed Khairallah, president of the Nour Party and member of the Communications Committee, offered his condolences to the families of the individuals killed and wounded in a recent terror attack in Nigeria committed by Boko Haram.

Looking Ahead

  • Abdel ‘Al set April 15 as the date for the next general session of  the House of Representatives.
  • Important legislation is expected to be debated and finalized within the coming weeks, including the Cybercrimes Law, which establishes new procedures for social networking websites and technological crimes such as credit fraud; the Public Transportation Using Technology Law, which regulates ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Careem; and the Local Administration Law, which delegates greater governing authority to local councils.