EPW Week in Brief – April 10-17, 2019

04/18/2019 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • The Constitutional Affairs Committee within the House of Representatives finalized the proposed constitutional amendments after reviewing all feedback for the initiative, and the package was subsequently referred to plenary session for the entire legislature to deliberate and vote upon. After discussing each amendment, the House approved the amendments package with 531 of  596 representatives supporting the amendments. The amendments are subject to a national referendum, which will occur April 19–21 for Egyptian expatriates and April 20–22 for domestic residents.[1]

Notable Developments

House Approves Constitutional Amendments:

A subcommittee within the Constitutional Affairs Committee finalized the proposed constitutional amendments after reviewing committee feedback as well as proposals from individuals interested in the amendments. The subcommittee’s report and final draft of the amendments were approved by the entire committee on April 14 and referred to the full House for deliberation. The House convened in plenary session on April 16 and debated the proposed amendments over three separate sessions that day. After discussing the various proposals, Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al conducted a standing vote on each individual amendment, though these votes did not procedurally impact the final parliamentary vote. The House subsequently conducted a roll call vote with all representatives in attendance, and the amendments package was approved by 531 of the House’s 596 representatives, surpassing the required two-thirds majority needed for the House to approve constitutional amendments per parliamentary bylaws. Twenty-two representatives voted against the initiative, one member formally abstained, and 42 parliamentarians did not participate in the vote. The Conservative Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and the Nour Party publicly expressed their opposition to the initiative during the plenary sessions, though officials in the Nour Party later retracted their opposition and voted in favor of the proposals.

One day after the House’s vote, the National Elections Authority announced that Egyptian expatriates will vote in the amendments referendum April 19–21, while domestic residents will vote April 20–22. The national referendum requires a simple majority of Egyptian citizens to approve the amendments in order to be ratified. Prior to the parliamentary vote and leading up to the referendum, political parties continued to engage in promotional campaigns for the amendments. The Nation’s Future Party is expected to have organized over 300 such events by the first referendum date, while the Wafd Party launched their own domestic campaign endeavor.

Abdel ‘Al Welcomes Haftar-Supported Libyan Officials:

Abdel ‘Al hosted Libyan House of Representatives Speaker Aguila Saleh Issa of the Tobruk government. This follows nearly a week of military advances by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) forces toward Tripoli, the location of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord. During their meeting, Abdel ‘Al stated that Egypt supports a peaceful resolution to ongoing hostilities in Libya, while also calling on the international community to cease interfering in Libyan internal affairs. Issa asserted that the LNA possesses 90 percent of Libyan territory.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

The House approved amendments to the Financial Markets Censorship Law on April 16 proposed by Representative Muhammad al-Suweidi. The amendments require the authority created under the 2009 law to distribute 80 percent of its funds to the state treasury.

The House approved the government’s Technological Universities Law on April 16, which aims to establish universities specifically focused on technological subjects.

In Session:

Representative Ahmed Muhammad al-Khashen of the Nation’s Future Party was inaugurated into his position as the new parliamentary representative for Ashmoun by Abdel ‘Al on April 14. Khashen won the runoff election against independent candidate Hatem Maglaa by securing 74.8 percent of votes with 14.3 percent voter turnout in the district.

Finance Minister Muhammad Mait appeared before the House’s plenary session on April 16 to discuss the state budget for the 2019–20 fiscal year.

The House issued a statement expressing condolences to those affected by the terrorist attack in Sheikh Zuweid on April 9; conflicting reports claim the attack killed between seven and 15 individuals. The House’s statement added that the government and Armed Forces will continue to defend against elements “without a country or religion” that threaten Egypt.

In News and Statements:

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Karim Darwish hosted the British ambassador to Egypt, Geoffrey Adams, on April 17 to discuss bilateral relations.

Religious Affairs Committee Chairman Osama al-Abd hosted Sweden’s ambassador to Egypt, Jan Thesleff, on April 15 to discuss issues of mutual concern, notably combating extremism.

African Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan stated that recent developments in Sudan are internal affairs for the Sudanese to address, noting that Egypt supports an outcome that will yield a stable Sudanese state.

Similarly, the Arab Affairs Committee announced its solidarity with the Sudanese people in conjunction with a previous statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Abdel ‘Al congratulated Representative Gehad Omar of the Constitutional Affairs Committee

Deputy Speaker of the House Soleiman Wahdan stated that Sisi’s visit to Washington represented an important opportunity for both countries, especially as it relates to Middle Eastern affairs.

Looking Ahead

  • The House will reconvene in plenary session on May 12.

[1] For more context, background information, and implications of the specific proposals within the amendments package, please consult TIMEP’s 2019 Constitutional Amendments Law Brief.